After studying art in California and teaching in Nova Scotia, the American painter and graphic artist Eric Fischl, born in New York in 1948, returned to his native city in 1978 where he still lives. In the 1980s, he developed a pictorial language that helped him to international success. His figures from a middle-class background, executed in a planar realistic style, are frequently shown in ambiguous situations, often with sexual or violent undertones. Fischl’s demand on the viewer is to take a close look although he declines to offer any explanations in his paintings. This enigmatic approach has precursors in Eduard Manet and Edward Hopper, for example, while it also has close parallels to contemporary photography at the same time – Fischl’s work repeatedly seeming to deal with its paradigms.
To date, the Brandhorst Collection owns five major paintings by Fischl that provide an insight into his work from the early 1980s to the present day. “Daddy’s Girl” of 1984, in which the painter questions the image of a happy family through the inclusion of ambiguous elements, is an outstanding early masterpiece. “Cattle Auction” (1990) would appear to capture a folk dance scene but, through suggestion, depicts the parallel existence of pleasure and violence. In “Japanese Bath” (1988) Fischl picks up on the pictorial composition of Impressionists such as Edgar Degas, whereas “Living Room No. 3 (Spinning)” of 2002 evokes Edward Hopper’s images of a couple’s loneliness. In “Between the Bed and the Chair” (2001), Fischl depicts the bed but not the chair mentioned in the title. The “Between” turns out to be a naked woman who turns questioningly to one side, without the viewer discovering why.