Skip to content
Sheila Isham

Sheila Eaton Isham (b. 1927, New York City) is an American artist whose color abstractions draw on a wide range of cultural formations—from twentieth-century European avant-garde approaches to Washington Color School techniques; from ancient Chinese calligraphy, philosophy, and poetry, to Haitian animism and modes of Hindu and Buddhist tantric practices. She has spent the later years of her career splitting time between New York City and Sagaponack, New York. After receiving her formal training at Bryn Mawr, she and her husband began traveling the world, which lead to her interest in the traditions and spiritual practices of other cultures.

In 1950, Isham moved to Berlin, Germany. While there, she attended the Hochschule für Bildende Kunste (Berlin Academy of Fine Arts) where she studied painting under the tutelage of Max Pechstein, Karl Schmidt-Rottluf, and Hans Uhlman, fellow Abstract Expressionists who had survived the recent Nazi era. The artist later lived in Russia, Vietnam, and Haiti. Each new cultural experience served to inspire her artwork. Working largely in abstraction, Isham is greatly influenced by spirituality and nature in her paintings, prints, and collages.

Isham has had one-person exhibitions at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Miami, Florida; the Museum of Modern Art, New Orleans, Louisiana; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; the Georgia Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; the Russian Museum, Marble Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia; Russian State Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia; the National Museum for Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.; among others.

Her work is held in major public and private collections, including the Baltimore Museum of Art, MD; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Minneapolis Institute of Art, MN; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, NY; Princeton University Art Museum, NJ; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; and Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT.