Fine, Perle (1908–1988)

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Fine, Perle (1908–1988)

American abstract artist. Born in 1908; died in New York in 1988; studied at the Art Students League with Kimon Nicoläides and with Hans Hofmann at his Eighth Street School; married Maurice Berezov (an abstract artist).

Perle Fine knew as a child that she wanted to be an artist. As a teenager, she left her parents' dairy farm outside Boston and enrolled in New York's Art Students League, where she studied drawing with Kimon Nicoläides and met her future husband, abstract painter Maurice Berezov. After their marriage, Fine continued to use her maiden name to maintain her own artistic identity. In the 1930s, she studied with the abstract expressionist Hans Hofmann, although she did not agree entirely with his artistic philosophy. "Hofmann kept relating abstraction to the figure and to nature," she later said, "and I knew there was much more." She finally found a home at the Guggenheim Museum, as the recipient of a foundation grant. In return for enough money to pay for materials, she was required to bring in work once a month, which Hilla Rebay , the foundation's director, showed to Solomon Guggenheim. One of her paintings was bought by Guggenheim architect Frank Lloyd Wright, although he reportedly disliked all painting.

Fine had her first solo exhibition at the Willard Gallery in 1945, followed by subsequent shows at the Nierendorf Gallery in 1946 and 1947. The paintings of this period were a balance of geometric curves and angles, solid forms, and connecting lines. One painting, Polyphonic, was described as looking like "an immobilized Calder mobile … using bright clear hues and a wiry black line." During the 1940s, Fine also joined the American Abstract artists, a group of primarily abstractionists devoted to the tradition of cubism. When she proposed membership for her friend Jackson Pollock (whom she met at the Guggenheim where he was working as a guard), the group objected, finding his work "impure." It was not until the Abstract Expressionists movement gained momentum a decade later that Fine, along with artists like Pollock and Willem de Kooning, found their niche.

In 1954, Fine moved from her large New York studio to the Springs, an art colony near East Hampton, Long Island. That year, she was also hired as an associate professor of art by Hofstra University, where she remained for 12 years. Fine, who had always considered herself something of a hermit, found teaching both a liberating and exhausting experience: "When I began to teach I discovered to my surprise that I enjoyed people. I took teaching very seriously but found that it drained most of my energy. Teaching is a creative commitment."

During a period of illness in the late 1960s, Fine experienced a change in style. Unable to work on large canvases, she began a series of collages, combining wood pieces with painted grids. These evolved into gridlike paintings which she called her "Accordment" series. Fine gave these works whimsical names like The Dawn's Wind, A Woven Warmth, and Gently Cascading. Her method is described by Charlotte Rubinstein in American Women Artists: "Using very minimal means (somewhat in the manner of Agnes Martin )—vertical lines of color balanced against horizontal ones[—]she plays colors against one another, exploring the effects of color interrelationships on the overall field. Her paintings emit a kind of subtle inner luminosity." Perle Fine continued to paint at her studio on East Hampton into her late 70s. The artist died in 1988, at age 80.


Bailey, Brooke. The Remarkable Lives of 100 Women Artists. Holbrook, MA; Bob Adams, 1994.

Rubinstein, Charlotte Streifer. American Women Artists. Boston, MA: G.K. Hall, 1982.

suggested reading:

Deichter, David. Perle Fine: Major Works, 1954–1978 (A Selection of Drawings, Paintings and Collages). East Hampton, NY: Guild Hall of East Hampton, 1978 (an exhibition catalog).

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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