Perle Fine: Painting Through Barriers

Perle Fine at work. Source:

By Sky Malerba

In a world of male artists and curators, Boston born, Malden-raised Perle Fine never quite got the acclaim owed to her. An abstractionist and a constructor of collage, Fine was shaped by the avant-guard scene of the early to mid 20th century in New York City. Fine is the selection for Week
Four of Malden Arts Mondays, a two-month long celebration of artists and figures who have lived in Malden.

Fine’s career arguably picked up steam in May of 1943 when two of her paintings were entered into and featured in Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century museum. Two years later Fine would enjoy her first solo exhibition in 1945 at the Willard Gallery.

Gradually, Fine integrated herself into artist communities where she socialized with other expressionists in clubs like the Betty Parsons Gallery, in 1948 — an atmosphere not unlike the enlightenment groups in 19th century French salons. She congregated with the likes of Clyfford Still Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and others.

Polyphonic, 1945

By the 1960s Perle Fine was a lecturer and associate professor and is cited as saying:

“I never thought of myself as a student or teacher, but as a painter. When I paint something I am very much aware of the future. If I feel something will not stand up 40 years from now, I am not interested in doing that kind of thing.”

This self identity as an artist also gave birth to many more works that focused on her art and its place in history. In her 1969-1980 series Accordment, which at first glance often appears to be a series of square swatches of a single color, actually holds small minimalist patterns seamlessly embedded within the frame as though to symbolize harmony and contrast. It was meant to be a presentation and culmination of all of Perle Fine’s styles and modes of paintings she had explored leading up to this point in her journey.

Perle Fine, Cerulean Neon, c. 1970, acrylic on linen, 68 x 68 inches.

Fine would pass away from conditions related to Alzheimer’s disease in 1988 at her final home in East Hampton, New York.

The goal of Malden Arts Mondays is to provide Malden residents (particularly families, young children and tweens/teens) with fun activities that help them get to know Malden’s cultural history and contributions, and bring out the creative in all of us. All activities can be done with safe, social distancing during this time of the coronavirus pandemic. For more information about this week’s program and related activities, click here.

Previous Malden Arts Monday artists and figures are:

Ed Emberley

Herbert L. Jackson

Frank Stella


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