Yvonne Jacquette, whose breathtaking aerial land- and cityscapes dazzle in their evocation of both the vast natural world and the at-once intimate and distant lure of contemporary urban life, died April 23 at the age of eighty-eight. News of her death was confirmed by her longtime gallery, New York’s DC Moore. Though she painted from various lower-altitude vantage points, including the World Trade Center and the sidewalk, Jacquette first became drawn to overhead views while flying cross-country to visit her parents. “Yvonne Jacquette’s enviable accomplishment,” wrote the New York Times’s William Zimmer in 1991, “is that she has merged her art and her life so that she is never bored on airplanes.”
Yvonne Jacquette was born on December 15, 1934, in Pittsburgh. She moved with her family to Stamford, Connecticut, where she grew up. Drawn to art as a child, Jacquette began studying it at the age of ten; several years later, she began taking lessons from portraitist Robert Roché. After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1955, Jacquette took on various teaching roles, including those at Moore College of Art, Parsons School of Design, and University of Pennsylvania. Seeking a way to set herself apart from friends and contemporaries including Lois Dodd, Mimi Gross, Alex Katz, Neil Welliver, and her husband, Rudy Burkhardt, she turned to the aerial view that had so fascinated her on a trip to see her parents. Her first aerial paintings in her trademark pointillist style, made beginning in 1975, focused on the Maine landscape, but she soon expanded her purview to include nocturnes of towns and cities, most importantly New York.
“Yvonne Jacquette is the kind of realist who, as Constable said of Ruysdael, communicates an understanding of what she paints,” wrote Artforum’s Bill Berkson in 1988. “Painting everyday life as seen from above, she follows realism’s way of intensifying the seemingly casual visual perception so that its deeper necessity stands revealed. Her understanding admits the tangled nature of her subject: a separate view on the world every time, within reach of melancholy but spared the more topical forms of fuss.”
Her twenty-seven-foot-wide triptych Autumn Expression, 1980, is in the US Post Office in Bangor, Maine. Among the institutions in whose collections her works reside are the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri; the Cleveland Museum of Art; the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art, all in New York; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, both in Washington, DC; the Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts; and Portland Museum of Art, Maine. Jacquette was inducted into the Academy of Arts and Letters in 2003. A retrospective of her work will open at DC Moore in New York on May 5.