by Morey Storck
It started with sea shells and her attraction to colors and shapes. But, as Janet Lippmann smiled and explained, “Collecting shells on a Rockaway Beach and painting them did not translate into art classes in those years. Particularly at age seven. My parents gave me piano lessons instead. That’s what families did then!”
It wasn’t until college that Lippmann felt independent enough to switch majors. Her family strongly directed her to biology and, perhaps, a medical career, but she had other interests. Brooklyn College suggested, because of her strong interest in art, that she pursue a career in anatomical drawings. However, she received no A’s in biology. Without further discussion, she immediately switched her major to art, receiving a BA in 1956 and an MA in Art and Education in 1960. She took the education courses with an eye to teaching art in high school, if all else failed. Again, “That’s what many college women did in the 50’s.”
Among her teachers were Ilya Bolotowsky, Burgoine Diller, Jimmy Ernst, Ad Reinhardt, Kurt Seligman and Marc Rothko. Before and after college she did teach privately and later substituted in schools. Her post-graduate studies included painting with Knox Martin at NYU and pastel studies with Sid Hermel and Richard Pionkin in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.
From 1986 through 2013, Lippmann had more than 15 one-person exhibitions, including at The National Arts Club, NYC, SUNY/Westchester Community College, The Newington- Cropsey Foundation Gallery, The Alan Freshman Gallery in Beacon, and the IRPE Brooklyn College Gallery among others. Also during this period, she had innumerable Selected Group Exhibitions, among them the Goodman Gallery and RVS Gallery in Southampton, NY, New England Museum of Contemporary Art, Connoisseur Gallery in Rhinebeck, NY, Woodstock School of Art Exhibit, Hudson Valley Art Association, and the National Association of Pastel Painters of America, Taiwan, and at the Chinese Cultural Center, Flushing, NY.
“I had never been a business woman,” Lippmann said, “but I got the urge in 1974 and opened The River Gallery in a small store front on Main Street in Irvington for $120/month! We sold small paintings, jewelry, some ceramics and greeting cards. I did all the publicity, printing, photography and public relations, but showed very little of my own work. However, we did very well, and in a couple of years, expanded across the street to a much larger space on the corner across from the bank. I rented until 1981 when the opportunity to buy the building presented itself. And I did – I bought the building!”
Besides continuing to exhibit and sell her regular art selections at River Gallery, Lippmann began representing other artists in her new expanded Main Street location. They included Ilya Bolotowsky, Will Barnet, Bill Behnken, Robert Kipniss, Knox Martin and many lesser known, up-and-coming American artists, presenting one-person, month- long exhibitions of their work. Yet, during this very active and rewarding period, she made time for what turned out to be a life-changing painting trip to Giverny, France.
“I went there alone. My only familiar traveling possessions were my easels, paints and brushes. But, I was heading to the area I knew I would love,” Lippmann fondly remembered. “I admire, and am influenced by Matisse for his joy and color, and Monet for creating his own world, a source of inspiration for me and the lives of so many others for years to come.”
Her destination was the Monet Gardens in Giverny. “Since I had been warned that those gardens were closely monitored, I wore all green so as not to be too conspicuous,” she laughed. She spent two weeks there and in the immediate environs, painting, photographing and becoming empowered with inspiration. The wisteria trees and vines were of particular interest, and because the colors were different in both spring and fall, she returned to Giverny again to appreciate the difference.
Returning to the states, she painted 13 large oils in a two-year span for an exhibition of her own work. Her first sale was a 48×36 canvas that was purchased by Reader’s Digest for their building collection. “With that sale,” Lippmann explained, “I was finally ready and committed to show my own work!” In 2008 Will Barnet wrote: “Janet’s love of nature dominates her work. The luminosity of her landscapes and the delicacy of her palette radiate an intense physical impression. This is further enhanced by her strong sense of design.”
She sold the building and studio in 2015 and packed up 40 years of art, inventory and memories to her home in Tarrytown. “What next, you ask? What’s my next step? Well, right now I’m involved with my one-person exhibition at the Martucci Gallery, Irvington Public Library – November 2nd to 29th, 2016,” Lippmann said. “On display will be landscape and still-life pastels, prints and oil paintings. As for that next step, who knows? Something will show up. I have a studio at home and in NYC. I will paint, take courses and teach one or two days a week. But, one thing I am very sure of, and that is an artist never has to retire. And I have no intention of doing so.”