Hanna Eshel

HANNA ESHEL (1926 - 2023) was a multi-disciplinary artist who began her studies at the Bezalel School of Art and served as Lieutenant of Cartography in the Israeli Air Force during the 1948 War of Independence. Eshel moved to Paris in 1952, completing advanced studies in painting and fresco at the Academic de la Grande Chaumiere and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where she was awarded the first prize in the Concours de France. It was during her twenty-year period in France that she created the majority of her oil paintings, paper collages, and burlap collage-paintings. During this period, she began to incorporate what could later be described as strongly feminist imagery into her work, nearly a decade before feminist art had surfaced in Europe and the United States.

As Eshel’s art grew more and more three-dimensional (many of her burlap collage-paintings contain clefts, fissures, and holes, some of which are actually double-sided works) she began to experiment with other sculpting media. Her search for a “material with soul” brought her to Carrara, Italy. A proposed two-month sojourn turned into six years—a prolific time during which she created an enormous collection of sculptural works. She learned to work with marble as the only woman member of a group of sculptors at Atelier Nicoli, where she received the Fiori Carrara prize, and through whom she met artists like Isamu Noguchi and Henry Moore.

In 1978, Eshel moved to New York City with her entire body of work and 20,000 pounds of marble, much of which had to be lifted by crane through a window of her sixth-floor NoHo loft. While in Paris, Eshel had shown notably often for a woman at the time. However, she came to find the New York art scene frustrating, and, with the exception of a few shows, she lost the desire to promote her art. Instead, Eshel spent the next thirty years quietly and devotedly sculpting, painting, photographing, and collaging inside the loft. Drawing inspiration from art history and ancient civilizations, Eshel’s art was out of step with current trends; rather, it spoke to something much more universal, through strong, elemental forms and meticulous breaks and textures.

In 2012, Eshel posted an ad for a roommate on Craigslist. Quinn Luke, an art consultant, answered and discovered the artist’s whole oeuvre cohabiting with minimal furniture and large plants inside her bright white, 2,500-square-foot loft. He quickly introduced her to Patrick Parrish (who now represents the estate), who was amazed to find a complete body of work still in the artist’s studio, virtually untouched, with hundreds of paintings still in the original shipping boxes from her journey from Paris to New York in 1978. A flurry of media attention accompanied her first formal New York solo exhibition at Parrish’s Mondo Cane Gallery, including major stories in The New York Times, 1stdibs Introspective Magazine, and Sight Unseen.

(Photo Credit: Hanna Eshel)