A woman is bending over, reaching for something we cannot see, while a dog watches her from a slight distance. The two protagonists seem to be sharing a moment that is hard to situate time-wise, as the light and shadows seem to be in contradiction.
Eric Fischl has orchestrated an unlikely encounter in an indeterminate time and space, using a narrow palette of colours around three elements. Using the principle of assembled tracings used for some of his drawings, he created a composition by juxtaposing two separate images printed from two plates, overlaid with a third plate to add colour, with a paler zone generating an artificial impression of light. The aquatint technique allowed him to work with a brush and to create the impression of transparency
This process creates a number of seeming anomalies. The dog’s shadow is unusual in appearance, overlapping the two plates and contradicting the woman’s. The dog’s position induces the viewer to project an imaginary relationship between the two figures. The parallelism between them, aligned in the depth of field, heightens the animality of the woman, whose body is almost reduced to a mass of flesh topped with a scalp of hair.
The scene triggers a slightly eerie feeling due more to its artificiality than to the hint of obscenity in the dog’s view of the bending woman. Fischl often sought to create such a reaction. Like his compatriot Philip Pearlstein, he often paints nude bodies in trivial poses drawing attention to the opulence of their flesh, with a hyperrealist approach that gives his images a high degree of reality. He delights in applying this striking technique to middle-class American leisure pursuits, particularly seaside holidays and nudist beaches.
Klaus Albrecht Schröder (ed.), Eric Fischl. Friends, Lovers and other Constellations, exh. cat. Vienna, Albertina, 2014.
Erika Billeter, Helle Crenzien et alii, Eric Fischl, exh. cat. Aarhus, Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Humlebæk Louisiana Museum for Moderne Kunst, Aarhus, Aarhus Kunsmuseums Forlag, 1991.
Erika Billeter (ed.), Eric Fischl. Bilder und Zeichnungen/Peintures et dessins, exh. cat. Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Vienna, Akademie der Bildenden Künste, 1990.