Eric Fischl

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Eric Fischl

Eric Fischl is an acclaimed American sculptor and painter. His achievements have made him one of the late 20th and early 21st century’s most influential artists. His early work focused on what could not be spoken about but was experienced (themes of adolescent sexuality).

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Eric Fischl, The Old Man’s Boat and the Old Man’s Dog (1982)
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Eric Fischl, Untitled (Shower) (1989)
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American Hula (2020), Eric Fischl. Courtesy the artist and Skarstedt, New York; © Eric Fischl/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York

Fischl’s earlier works, in the 1980’s, are very provocative and perhaps disturbing viewing for some. The themes are highly taboo, including voyeurism, masturbation and sexuality, and also include these themes during adolescence. I do not feel shocked by these paintings, I appreciate them, as they are honest and ‘in your face’. He is exploring things that people keep hidden, their dark shadows. Adolescence can be a very sexual time, and his work represents that in a wonderful style. Disturbing, yes, but also very real.

Thomas Marks said, in an interview for the Apollo magazine; “More than any painter I’ve spoken to, perhaps, Fischl has an unwavering faith in his chosen medium and its possibilities; the process of painting, he says, is how painters ‘actually organise their feelings, thoughts, relationships to others’. ” I feel there is a lot of truth in this. His work certainly expresses all those things.

From the same interview, this section really struck true: “To this day, the process of painting for Fischl involves working towards such moments; his paintings are finished, paradoxically, when they convince him of the irresolvable mysteries of their content. He speaks of his process in terms of a conversation, of ‘questions’ and ‘intuitions’, that starts with him ‘talking to the painting’ which gives way, ‘hopefully’, to a point when ‘the painting begins to talk to you’ (he paints only one work at a time). ‘There’s a point at which you’re looking at a painting,’ he says, ‘and you’re no longer looking at it as the artist who made it, you’re no longer sitting there going, is that yellow too saturated, is this scale right. You’re looking at it thinking, what the fuck is going on here? Who are these people and what do they want? […] You’re now the viewer.’”

Erich Fischl created a series of paintings on glassine paper. These are of great interest, especially those relating to the family. He made these during the 70’s. Glassine’s transparency and slippery feel attracted him to work with it. He said that oil paint ‘schmears’ and slides across it in a sexy way. The works are constructed with heavy black strokes, and the emphasis is on the narrative. He would use several sheets of paper and draw different elements on each. They were then layered over each other.

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Eric Fischl, Glassines
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Mother and Son at Table, Eric Fischl, (1978)
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Saturday Night Bath, The aftermath, Eric Fischl, (1980)

I enjoy Eric Fischl’s work, as it depicts the reality of our world, its pseudosexual undercurrents, and is not afraid to be bold and direct. The glassine paintings seem simple, but they carry on this feeling of grit and the reality of our world. I like Fischl’s bold approach and respect his bravery and directness. He is not afraid to portray that which others resist.

I feel his work is relevant to me, as I am wanting to explore the theme of motherhood and childhood, but would like to do it in a realistic way, and not idealised. His work is very honest, as are the concepts and ideas behind it. I would like to maintain a level of integrity to my experiences, and portray this through my work.


MARKS, THOMAS (2020) ‘Uncertainty principle – an interview with Eric Fischl’ in The Apollo Magazine 16/08/2020. At: (Accessed 3/05/2021)

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