Lola K. Isroff

(1909 - 2000, Akron, Ohio)

North America, American

Just as the mainstream art world includes artists from a wide variety of ethnic, cultural, geographic and social backgrounds, so does art outside the mainstream. Lola Isroff, born in New York City and an Akron resident since 1961, was a published author and former Associate Editor of the New Yorker magazine. Self-trained as a visual artist, she began to paint quite by accident in the 1950s while researching an historical novel on old New York. Isroff would visit buildings mentioned in historical documents and, on one such occasion, decided to sketch an old house rather than take written notes about it. Once at home, she added color and was delighted with the result. Acclaim from friends convinced her to drop plans for her novel and concentrate on painting, which she has pursued for almost forty years with success on both the national and international level.

Isroff’s work, like that of Earl Cunningham, also in our collection, plays off but does not belong to the folk art tradition of memory painting. Memory paintings depict disappearing lifestyles, typically rural landscapes before the advent of farm machinery. They usually idealize country life, avoiding any sense of its hardship. Isroff brings the tradition of memory painting into the modern world, choosing historic architecture and vignettes of contemporary urban life as her subject matter. She looks beyond the problems of the city to affectionately portray its architecture, both grand and humble, and to capture experiences on paper. Isroff’s paintings imbue contemporary people and places with the vitality, charm and whimsy that we associate with folk images of the imagined past.

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