Artist Profile: Jane Eccles
It’s the 1950s, and Jane Eccles, with a degree in art history from Mt. Holyoke College and graduate work at Columbia University, is on a successful trajectory toward her ambition of becoming a curator. But her husband volunteers for the draft, then begins a career as a chemical engineer, and so instead of entering the haut monde world of New York museums and galleries, Eccles slingshots around the United States, eventually ending up in Summit, New Jersey.
It was there, late 1950s, when this humble, self-deprecating, Orleans-based artist first saw a de Kooning and a Pollock and the whole Abstract Expressionism movement taking off. Abstract Expressionism exhilarated her, as only someone who still had dreams of serious aspirations in the art world could be excited.
Remembering the joy she experienced in a painting class she took with Edward Corbett at Mt. Holyoke, she began taking classes at night from George Mueller, a painter who enjoyed early success in the New York art scene. “I launched myself right into Abstract Expressionism,” Eccles says. Over the course of her career, one that has embraced painting, printmaking and papermaking, Eccles always returned to abstractions. “I bounced back and forth,” she says, “but I always went back to abstract work. Even when I moved to the Cape and became a plein air painter, I saw there were people who can do that well, and I just didn’t want to.”
Eccles loves color and won’t even consider doing black and white or monochrome work. She professes an admiration for Wolf Kahn for his use of color, and Richard Diebenkorn’s compositional style. And while she couldn’t be a follower of Henry Hensche’s Cape Cod School of Art—she feels the School’s practice is too restrictive for her—she did learn about under-painting from the School and uses it in her work to layer and enrich the color of her paintings. “It’s a Cape Cod thing,” she says.
Later in the 1970s in New Jersey, by this time with three young boys, she began printmaking in all its forms and techniques. Etching didn’t require a lot of studio space, could be done in stages to accommodate her children’s schedules, and offered her new artistic challenges. From printmaking it was an obvious step to making her own paper, which Eccles still does today. “My introduction to making handmade paper came from being a printmaker,” she explains. “I investigated various papers for printmaking that led me to start making my own.”
Eccles is the recipient of the New Jersey State Council of the Arts Fellowship for distinguished work in printmaking. Her art is in several museum collections, including the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, the Cape Cod Museum of Art, Firestone Library of Princeton University, Zimmerli Art Museum of Rutgers University, Newark Museum, the Ballinglen Arts Foundation in Ireland, as well as many corporate and private collections.