Skip to content
Elmer Bischoff, 'The River,' c. 1953
Elmer Bischoff, 'Untitled (Two Figures),' 1960
Elmer Bischoff, 'Europa,' 1957
Elmer Bischoff, 'Adam and Eve,' 1966
Elmer Bischoff, 'Self-Portrait,' 1955
Elmer Bischoff, 'Girl Leaning Against Chair,' c. 1965
Elmer Bischoff, 'Figure with White Lake,' 1964
Elmer Bischoff, 'Playground,' 1954
Elmer Bischoff, 'Green Bathtub,' 1954
Elmer Bischoff, 'Cortez Square,' 1953
Installation view, Elmer Bischoff, Figurative Paintings: 1953-1966, George Adams Gallery, New York, 2010.
Installation view, Elmer Bischoff, Figurative Paintings: 1953-1966, George Adams Gallery, New York, 2010.

Press Release

During September and October, the GEORGE ADAMS GALLERY will present an exhibition of paintings by Elmer Bischoff. The works in the exhibition span the first half of the 20 year period between 1953 and 1973 in which Bischoff, co-founder of the Bay Area Figurative School with Richard Diebenkorn and David Park, introduces and develops his figurative style.

The earliest canvases in the exhibition date from 1953 and show the pronounced influence of Bonnard and Toulouse-Lautrec in both palette and composition. These paintings, intensely chromatic and tightly composed, are personal in nature; for example “Green Bathtub” shows Bischoff’s wife with his young son Gregory in the bath, while “Cortez Square” and “Playground,” from 1953 and 1954 respectively, depict children at play. By the late 1950s, however, this theme is supplanted by depictions of figures in the studio (“Two Models,” 1960) or in the landscape (“Figure with White Lake, 1964” and “Adam and Eve,” 1966), as well as by a cooler and more limited palette. In addition, the paintings introduce a more heavily impastoed surface, the hallmark of the Bay Area Figurative style.

Elmer Bischoff was born in Berkeley, California in 1916 and died there in 1991. He has been the subject of several retrospective exhibitions, including two organized by the Oakland Museum, California, in 1975 and 2001, and one staged by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1985. A figurative painter at the outset of his career, Bischoff experimented with a form of surrealism during the 1940s before enthusiastically embracing Abstract Expressionism.  In 1948 the Museum of Art in San Francisco (now SFMoMA) featured Bischoff, along with Park and Hassel Smith, in the first West Coast museum exhibition to focus on this new way of painting. Around 1952, however, Bischoff and colleagues Diebenkorn and Park abandoned abstraction in favor of the loose, painterly style that became known as Bay Area Figurative and for which Bischoff is best known.

Exhibition Checklist

The River, c. 1953
oil on canvas
56 x 56 inches
EBp 13

Untitled (Two Figures), 1960
oil on canvas
36 x 30 inches
EBp 18

Europa, 1957
oil on canvas
50 ¼ x 56 ¼ inches
EBp 23

Adam and Eve, 1966
oil on canvas
45 ½ x 38 ½ inches
EBp 19

Self-Portrait, 1955
oil on canvas
28 x 22 inches
EBp 17

6. (window)
Girl Leaning Against Chair, c. 1965
ink, charcoal on paper
18 x 15 inches
EBd 3

Figure with White Lake, 1964
oil on canvas
79 ½ x 79 ¼ inches
EBp 21

8. (window)
Playground, 1954
oil on canvas
68 1/8 x 55 inches
EBp 16

Green Bathtub, 1954
oil on canvas
53 ¾ x 60 inches
EBp 22

Cortez Square, 1953
oil on masonite
48 x 72 inches