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Elizabeth Bishop paints!

Elizabeth Bishop was more than just a poet. She was a wonderful friend. An ardent lover. A remarkable teacher. An extensive traveler. And a talented…painter? Yes! 

A painting of pansies by Elizabeth Bishop with a gingham table cloth and books

“Pansies” by Elizabeth Bishop

Renowned poet Elizabeth Bishop was skilled in more than just her evocative way with words. She has even been noted for saying she would have preferred to be a painter than a poet: ‘“How I wish I’d been a painter,” she once wrote, “that must really be the best profession—none of this fiddling with words.”’

A painting of the town of Merida by Elizabeth Bishop

“Mérida from the Roof” by Elizabeth Bishop

She had an eye for detail, humor, and the beauty of the simplest things. Her pieces often featured flowers and bouquets, and her color schemes tended towards browns, with vibrant colors such as red or yellow shining through here and there.

A painting of a woman by Elizabeth Bishop

Elizabeth’s work was often a commentary on what was going on around her, especially during the fifteen years she spent in Brazil, when politics were uneasy and, sadly, infant mortality rates were high. Bishop’s “Tombstone for Sale” features white tombstones with the words for sale inscribed on them, chills to the bone, and her “box” called “Anjinhos” displays an abandoned sandal amongst a collection of cut-out angelic children’s faces, is even more haunting. 

Several galleries have jumped at the opportunity to display her artwork, but most notable was “Objects and Apparitions” at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York City, December 2011-January 2012, which paired her work with San Franciscan painter Jess. The Tibor de Nagy Gallery had previously debuted Bishop’s work in 1996. 

A painting of a tree, barn, and cemetery  by Elizabeth Bishop
A collage of women, flowers, seashells, and a shoe by Elizabeth Bishop

Bishop’s artwork is also displayed in the 2012 book Objects and Apparitions, a companion to the Tibor de Nagy’s exhibition of her work. It compiles several pieces of her art and poetry, as well as photographs from Elizabeth’s life, and essays by three Elizabeth Bishop scholars who authored the book. 

Elizabeth Bishop’s life and history are constantly emerging and fascinating fans and newcomers alike to her work.. Her poems, paintings, and correspondences are continuously inspiring to those whose paths they cross, and Dear Elizabeth is another recent yet deeply profound manifestation of this. Bishop’s writings and artwork allow us to see the world through her eyes, and gain insight on the life led by this incredible woman. 

Dear Elizabeth, based on Elizabeth Bishop’s 30-year correspondence with poet Robert Lowell, is onstage at The Lyric Stage Company until Nov. 9th 2014. www.lyricstage.com/tickets.

Laura Latreille as Elizabeth Bishop in Dear Elizabeth sitting at a desk

Laura Latreille as Elizabeth Bishop in Dear Elizabeth by Sarah Ruhl

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