An exclusive interview with Audrey Isselbacher, owner of Isselbacher Gallery, New York.
Founded in 1965 by the late Alfred Isselbacher, Isselbacher Gallery specializes in late 19th and 20th Century original prints by European and American modern masters.
Q1. Where are you based and how long has the gallery been dealing in fine prints?
AI: Isselbacher Gallery has been based on the upper east side of Manhattan since its founding in 1965 by my father, Alfred Isselbacher. His interest in art, specifically prints, became an all-consuming passion that motivated him to open a gallery.
Q2. How did you start in the art business?
AI: I took over the business after my father passed away in 2000. Before that, I was Associate Curator of Prints & Illustrated Books at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, where I’d worked since 1975. Although I grew up surrounded by prints, my 25 years at MoMA, working with the greatest public collection of modern prints in the world, was an amazing and indispensable learning experience.
Q3. Which artists / art movements do you specialise in?
AI: The gallery specializes in late 19th and 20th century prints by modern masters such as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Henri Matisse, Jean Dubuffet, Marc Chagall, Giorgio Morandi, Edward Munch and the German Expressionists, among others. The emphasis is on European artists, while we do have some Americans from time to time.
Q4. What were some of the first prints you bought and sold?
AI: I was in high school when I used babysitting money to purchase my first print from my father–a lithograph by Alexander Calder, which I later swapped for a lithograph by Joan Miro. My master plan was to keep trading up, but I ultimately sold the Miro back to my father when I needed money for my own apartment.
Q5. Who is your personal favourite artist and why?
AI: I’d have to say my personal favorite is Pablo Picasso because of his unmatched ability to reinvent himself and printmaking over the course of his career. He worked in so many styles and mediums and was so prolific that I never tire of his art. Just when I think I’m familiar with most of his print output, I discover something fascinating that I wasn’t previously aware of.
Q6. Which artists do you regard as some of the finest printmakers?
AI: I think the finest and most compelling printmakers learn all there is to know about a print medium and then push the boundaries, not only for the sake of technical mastery, but, more importantly, for expressive means–Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Miro, Dubuffet, and Munch all come to mind.
Q7. If you could own just one print, which would it be?
AI: My all-time favorite print is Picasso’s Faune devoilant une femme from the Suite Vollard. Every time I look at it I see something new. Not only is the composition beautiful, but Picasso’s exquisite use of aquatint, scraper and burin always takes my breath away.
Q8. Which artists do you have in your personal collection?
AI: Some of the artists in my personal collection are Picasso, Matisse, Calder, Jim Dine, Donald Sultan, A.R. Penck and Howard Hodgkin.
Q9. What are some of your latest acquisitions?
AI: I recently acquired a charming Miro etching and aquatint, Strip-Tease, that always makes me smile, and a wonderful, extremely rare hand-colored woodcut by Munch, House on the Coast I.
Q10. What advice do you offer collectors when acquiring fine prints?
AI: My best advice to collectors is to educate yourselves. Go to museums and galleries, look at all the prints you can by the artists you are interested in, train your eye to appreciate the distinct aesthetics of each medium, and most importantly, buy what you love from knowledgeable and reputable dealers, such as those vetted by the IFPDA.