Dorothy Eisner was an American painter whose career spanned more than seven decades. She studied at the Art Students League from 1925 to 1929 with Boardman Robinson, Kenneth Hayes Miller, and Thomas Hart Benton. She looked to European modernism (Cezanne and Matisse most especially), but grounded herself in American painting of her own and the generation before her. She worked constantly on her own track, with occasional explorations of fields or "schools" of art through most of the twentieth century: in her studio in Greenwich Village, in the mountains of North Carolina, the valleys and rivers of Montana, and the twenty-four wonderful summers in Maine. Her paintings reflect both her own past and her passionate interest in all art. Dorothy Eisner was born in 1906 and became dedicated to drawing and painting for life at the outset of the 1920's, the decade that for Dorothy as a painter and other women of her generation allowed for bold engagement with the arts. By the 1930's, a period when artists who were women found it difficult to achieve recognition, she exhibited frequently and was an active participant in the New York art community.
Dorothy Eisner's affinity with photographers and photography began when Alfred Stiglitz chose her work for the Opportunity Gallery in the 1930's. Along with her husband, John McDonald, she admired and was close friends for forty years with Walker Evans, who later extensively photographed her 1961 solo exhibition at the James Gallery.
In 1937 Eisner traveled to Coyoacan, Mexico, with her husband John and a number of American intellectuals on the anti-Stalinist left, to participate in the American philosopher John Dewey's Commission of Inquiry into the charges made against Trotsky in the Moscow Trials. She wrote that she was never a "social realist," but "did still lifes and lifes not so still."
After World War II, Eisner worked with Jack Tworkov and experimented with abstract expressionism and found her vision as an artist with boldly expressed and brilliantly colorful works. In 1960, she began a long relationship with Cranberry Island, Maine, and the people who lived and summered there from 1960 to 1983. There Dorothy found an artistic community and dialogue about art in daily contact with other painters on the island: Gretna Campbell, Louis Finkelstein, Robert LaHotan, John Heliker, William Kienbusch, and others (including William Wadsworth, Carl Nelson, Emily Nelligan, and Mark Samenfeld). These years mark a new level of freedom in her art.
**GFA represents the estate