Ellen Altfest

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Ellen Altfest
New York City
Known forrealist paintings
Stylerealist painting of still life and male figures
Patron(s)represented by White Cube in London

Ellen Altfest (born New York City, 1970) is an American painter who lives and works in New York. She is best known for her realist depictions of landscapes and still lifes that often blur the distinction between the two genres.[1]


Altfest graduated from Cornell University with a BFA in Painting and a BA in English, an MFA in Painting from Yale, and studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.


According to art critic Randy Kennedy, Altfest is known for her "painstakingly labor-intensive canvases that look at things in the world."[2] For example, while completing her 2013 work Tree, Altfest spent 13 months sitting in front of a tree trunk exploring the details.[2] Altfest is also known for small-scale works. The previously mentioned Tree, an oil on canvas, is approximately the size of a piece of typing paper.[2]

In 2007, London's White Cube gallery held a solo exhibition of her work which included the first extensive series of paintings of men. A monograph was released on the occasion of her exhibition at White Cube. Her work has featured in several prominent exhibitions, including "The Leg" at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas in 2010, "Head and Plant" at the New Museum in New York in 2012, "The Encyclopedic Palace" at the Venice Biennale in 2013, and a survey exhibition at the MK Gallery in Milton Keynes, United Kingdom in 2015.

Altfest's influences include Albrecht Dürer's The Large Turf, Jackson Pollock, Sylvia Sleigh, and Lucian Freud.

Altfest's works also include:[3][4]

  • Large Rock, (2002)
  • Studio Window at Night, (2003)
  • Tumbleweed, (2005)
  • Two Logs, (2005)
  • Penis, (2006)
  • Reclining Nude, (2006-2007)
  • Gourds, (2006-2007)
  • Green Gourd, (2007)
  • The Butt, (2007)
  • The Bent Leg, (2008)
  • Torso, (2010)
  • Armpit, (2011)
  • Abdomen, (2015)

Further reading[edit]

  • Inside the Artist's Studio, Princeton Architectural Press, 2015. (ISBN 978-1616893040)
  • Spira, Anthony ed. Ellen Altfest: Painting Close-Up, Occasional Papers, 2015. (ISBN 978-0992903916)
  • Smith, Roberta. "Art in Review: Ellen Altfest," New York Times, 23 December 2005.


  1. ^ Spira, Anthony (2015). Ellen Altfest: Painting Close-Up. Occasional Papers/MK Gallery. p. 5.
  2. ^ a b c Kennedy, Randy (June 6, 2013). "Warming to Painting in the Cold". The New York Times. Retrieved March 5, 2016.
  3. ^ Reilly, Maura, ed. (2015). "Ellen Altfest: A New, New Realism". Women Artists: The Linda Nochlin Reader. New York: Thames & Hudson, Inc. pp. 417–425. ISBN 978-0-500-23929-2.
  4. ^ Spira, Anthony (2015). Ellen Altfest: Painting Close-Up. Occasional Papers/MK Gallery.

External links[edit]