Discipline: Visual Art – drawing

Susan Schwalb

Discipline: Visual Art – drawing
Region: New York, NY
MacDowell fellowships: 1974, 1975, 1989

Susan Schwalb is one of the foremost figures in the revival of the ancient technique of silverpoint drawing in America. Most of the contemporary artists who draw with a metal stylus continue the tradition of Leonardo and Dürer by using the soft, delicate line for figurative imagery. By contrast, Schwalb’s work is resolutely abstract, and her handling of the technique is extremely innovative. In some works silverpoint is combined with flat expanses of acrylic paint or gold leaf; in others, paper is torn and burned to provide an emotional contrast to the precise linearity of the medium. In recent works, Schwalb abandons the stylus altogether in favor of wide metal bands that achieve a shimmering atmosphere reminiscent of the luminous transparency of watercolor.

Schwalb was born in New York City in 1944 and studied at Carnegie-Mellon University. Her current drawings juxtapose a wide variety of metals (silver, gold, brass, copper, platinum, pewter, bronze, and aluminum) to obtain soft shifts in tone and color. Horizontal bands evoke an atmosphere of serenity, and the shimmer of light on the surface, created by the metals, is quite unlike any of the usual effects of metalpoint.

Schwalb’s oeuvre ranges from drawings on paper to artist books and paintings on canvas or wood panels; many of these panels are carefully beveled so that the imagery seems to float off the wall. Her work is represented in numerous public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the National Gallery, Washington DC; The British Museum, London; The Brooklyn Museum; The Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University; Kupferstichkabinett - Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Germany; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Achenbach Foundation of Graphic Arts at The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; The Library of Congress; The Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT; Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art; The National September 11 Memorial and Museum, New York; The Columbus Museum, Columbus, GA; Evansville Museum of Art and Science, IN; the Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock; and The Isreal Museum in Jerusalem.



Susan Schwalb worked in the Adams studio.

Given to the MacDowell Association by Margaret Adams of Chicago, the half-timbered, stuccoed Adams Studio was designed by MacDowell Fellow and architect F. Tolles Chamberlin ca. 1914. Chamberlin was primarily a painter, but also provided designs for the Lodge and an early renovation of the main hall. The studio’s structural integrity was restored during a thorough renovation in…

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