Artist Jane Freilicher, painter of still lifes and landscapes from her homes in Water Mill and in New York, died on Tuesday, December 9, at the age of 90.
Born Jane Niederhoffer on November 29, 1924, in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, the artist grew up in Brighton Beach. Her father was a Spanish-language court interpreter and her mother was a musician. In 1941, she met and married jazz guitarist Jack Freilicher, who had played with the Army Band at West Point during World War II—a marriage that was annulled soon after. Through Freilicher, she met musician, and later artist, Larry Rivers, with whom she had a brief romantic relationship. In 1957, she married Joe Hazan, a painter and former businessman, who died in 2012 at the age of 96.
Freilicher studied at Brooklyn College, earning a Bachelor of Arts in 1947. At Columbia University she received a Master of Arts in art education in 1948. Like many aspiring New York artists of her time, she also studied with the grandfather of Abstract Expressionism, Hans Hofmann, at his schools in New York City and in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
While certainly informed by Abstract Expressionism and Color Field painting, two dominant styles of the time, Freilicher remained true to her impulse for recognizable imagery, more influenced by Bonnard, Vuillard and Matisse than her contemporaries. She dedicated her life to painting her surroundings—whether the cityscapes and interiors of New York City or the potato fields and marshes around Mecox Bay, where she and Hazan built a house.
While her adherence to subject matter kept her from gaining widespread recognition, she was well-known within a relevant artistic and literary circle of friends—including Frank O’Hara, James Schuyler, Kenneth Koch, Fairfield Porter, Grace Hartigan, Neil Blaine, Larry Rivers and John Ashbery, who wrote frequently about her work and was the first to buy one of her paintings.
Freilicher had her first solo show at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in 1952 and continued to be represented by the gallery throughout her artistic career. Freilicher’s work is in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, New York; Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Academy Museum and School, New York; and the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 2005 the American Academy of Arts and Letter presented her with a Gold Medal in Painting. Locally, her work is in the collections of Guild Hall, East Hampton and the Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill. In 1996, she was the recipient of the Guild Hall Academy of the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award in the Visual Arts.
The daughter of Jane Freilicher and Joe Hazan, Elizabeth Hazan, who is also an artist, survives them, along with a son-in-law, Stephen Hicks, and three grandchildren, Benjamin, Katharine and Lucian.