We are very pleased to offer for sale the Alice Methfessel Collection of paintings by Elizabeth Bishop (February 8, 1911 – October 6, 1979), one of America’s most admired poets, on the centenary of her birth. The collection consists of thirteen artworks by Bishop – eleven paintings and two assemblages – all of which were part of Bishop’s estate at the time of her death.
Alice Methfessel was Bishop’s partner from the time they met at Harvard in 1970. She became Bishop’s heir and literary executor. A descendant of John Roebling, the architect of the Brooklyn Bridge, Methfessel was born in New York City on March 19, 1943 and died in Carmel, California on June 28, 2009. Bishop dedicated her last book, Geography III (1976), to Methfessel who was the inspiration for many of the poems.
Methfessel, who found these paintings among Bishop’s papers after her death, believed them to be Bishop’s best, and there can be no doubt that they are among her finest works, each one distinguished by a unique and incandescent artistry. Dating from 1934 to 1978, the paintings constitute an illuminating map of Bishop’s adult life. The collection includes one of Bishop’s earliest paintings, “41 Charles Street” (1934). It also includes “Mérida from the Roof” (1942) and “Tombstones for Sale”, which were used as the dust jacket illustrations for Bishop’s Complete Poems 1927-1979 (1983) and The Collected Prose (1984), respectively; “Sleeping Figure”, a portrait of her lifelong friend Louise Crane; and Bishop’s largest and most finished painting, “Pansies”, which she had given to her lover, Lota de Macedo Soares, in Brazil in 1960, and which she inherited after Lota’s death in 1968. There are two additional Key West paintings, “County Courthouse” and “Olivia”; two domestic subjects, “Table with Candelabra” and “Tea Service”; the self-referential conceptual drawing “E. Bishop’s Patented Slot-Machine”, and one of her last paintings, “Red Flowers on Black.” There are also two assemblages, “Feather Box” and “Anjinhos”, which are Bishop’s only recorded constructions.
An illustrated catalogue of the collection is available.