Skip to main content

LILLY FENICHEL (1927-2016), Untitled, 1959, Oil on canvas, signed lower right, 37.5” x 50”


Lilly Fenichel (1927–2016), was an American painter who explored abstraction through a wide range of media and approaches, with her various periods linked together by a common emphasis on color harmonies and expressive, often calligraphic gestures. Her earliest work is associated with second-generation Bay Area Abstract Expressionism*.

Lilly Fenichel was born in Vienna, Austria, to a Jewish family. Her father was a doctor and her mother a fashion designer; the psychoanalyst Otto Fenichel was her uncle. In 1939, following the Nazi invasion of Austria, her family fled the country, going first to the United Kingdom and then to the United States, where they settled in Hollywood.

Fenichel studied art at the Chouinard Art Institute* (1946–47) and Los Angeles City College (1947–48). She then moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to study at the California School of Fine Arts* (1950–52), where she worked with the painters Edward Corbett, Hassel Smith, Elmer Bischoff, and David Park.

She started showing her work in the early 1950s and visited her former teacher Edward Corbett in Taos, New Mexico.  Corbett was part of a significant group of San Francisco abstract artists that included Richard Diebenkorn, Larry Calgano, and together with Corbett they had a profound influence on her surrealistic and colorful paintings.

Her vigorously gestural, often black-and-white paintings from the 1960s and 1970s are grouped with work by other West Coast second-generation Abstract Expressionists such as Joan Brown, Jay DeFeo, and Sonia Gechtoff.

Stylistically, her work from this period shows the influence of both West Coast Abstract Expressionism and the New York School*. Of her own work from this period, Fenichel has said it was Abstract Expressionism “with a lot of drawing in it.”

One critic wrote that “all of Lilly Fenichel’s paintings are related to nature, even when they are abstract to the point of being non-objective.”

Fenichel’s work has been shown mainly in the western United States, and her work is in the permanent collections of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (California), the Harwood Museum of Art (Taos), and the Albuquerque Museum among other institutions.[1] She was awarded three Pollock-Krasner Grants.


Selected Collections
The Albuquerque Museum
University of New Mexico Art Museum
The Harwood Museum, Taos, NM
Elizabeth Taylor, Beverly Hills, CA
AMOCO Oil Corporation, Denver, CO
ADP Corporation, Houston, TX

Selected Exhibitions
1968         Santa Barbara Museum of Art
1973,75    Los Angeles County Museum of Art
1980         Taylor Gallery, Taos, NM
1987         New Gallery, Houston, TX
1989         PW Gallery, Stamford, CT
1990         University of New Mexico Art Museum
1992         Headley-Whitney Museum, Lexington, KY
2003         Stewart Gallery, Provincetown, MA
2012-2017      The Albuquerque Museum