The Re-Discovered Artists
Janet Sobel is a name you probably have never heard of. Like much of his-tory, this one too is being rewritten. Also, Sobel is of Ukrainian descent and her story is about living through turbulent times.
In 1938, a Ukrainian-born grandmother created one of art’s biggest shocks, but it was attributed to the US painter Jackson Pollock. For International Women’s Day, Kelly Grovier explores the influence of Janet Sobel.
Janet Sobel was born as Jennie Olechovsky in 1893 in Ukraine. Her father, Baruch Olechovsky, was killed in a Russian pogrom. Sobel along with her mother, Fannie Kinchuk, a midwife, and siblings moved to Ellis Island in New York City in 1908.At sixteen years of age, she married Max Sobel, with whom she had five children. It was in her mid-life when she picked up her son’s art supplies and the rest is “his-tory,” until now.
The link above provides much in-depth narrative about Sobel’s early life and why she nearly faded into obscurity. Here I focus on the art and her remarkable unbridled passion. A “happy accident” that led to Janet picking up her son’s discarded art supplies. She had no formal training. This was her destiny.
With no inculcated allegiance to any artistic school or prejudice regarding the appropriateness of materials, Sobel began playing both with what a painting can say and how it can say it. Using unconventional implements such as glass eye-droppers to squirt paint and the strong suck of a vacuum to drag wet splatters into thin gossamers that no traditional brush could spin, she assaulted the surface of canvases laid out on the floor, orchestrating a liquid lyricism of spills, splashes and spits the likes of which had never before been seen.
She was a natural. Without any instilled deference to rules that mustn’t be broken – and with the fearlessness of someone who had survived the traumas of religious persecution and the hardships of the Great Depression – Sobel unselfconsciously set about inventing art as if entirely from scratch.
In 1945, legendary art promoter Peggy Guggenheim included her in a prominent exhibition, The Women, at Guggenheim’s Art of the Century gallery, before offering Sobel her own solo show the following year. This is where Pollock was introduced to this “little housewife from Brooklyn.”
Sobel created Milky Way (1945) two years before Pollock began experimenting with drip painting. Pollock’s Galaxy (1947) reveals the influence of Sobel
Janet’s Ukrainian roots. Google her works.
Janet Sobel – 29 artworks – painting (wikiart.org)