Two paintings by Eleanor Ray
Two paintings by Eleanor Ray: (left) “Atelier Cézanne, Aix” (2015), oil on panel, 5 1/4 x 5 3/4 inches and (right) “Nora’s Studio” (2015), oil on panel, 7 1/4 x 8 inches

Eleanor Ray ’09 names two artistic influences: 20th-century painters Pierre Bonnard, a Post-Impressionist known for his intense use of color, and Giorgio Morandi, who specialized in still lifes. With pops of color and calming scenes of interior spaces, Ray’s own paintings acknowledge these influences while inhabiting a world entirely their own. 

Originally from Gainesville, Fla., Ray has established herself as a burgeoning painter in the contemporary art world of New York City. Her first solo exhibition at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects (SHFAP) impressed renowned art critic Jerry Saltz, who included Ray’s show in his list of the 10 Best Art Shows of 2013. 

Eleanor Ray '09
The artist, Eleanor Ray ’09

That same year, critic Jed Perl cited Ray’s work in an article for New Republic. “You have probably never heard of the young painter Eleanor Ray, but she is a virtuoso, no question about it,” he wrote. “The sizes of the panels on which she paints … suggest a reverse hubris, a pride in how much she can do with so little.”

Described by art critics and journalists as “tiny,” “delicate” and “intimately scaled,” Ray’s works are made on surfaces smaller than pieces of notebook paper. One of her largest oil paintings, Nora’s Studio, measures just 7 1/4 by 8 inches.

“The small size is important to me right now,” Ray says. “Each mark plays a bigger role in the overall image on a small painting, and the painting exists more quickly on two levels—as an image when seen up close, and then more abstractly when the viewer steps away from it.” 

Painting by Eleanor Ray '01
Eleanor Ray Ground Floor, 101 Spring Street, 2015 oil on panel, 6 x 8 in

When she arrived at Amherst, Ray, who double majored in English and studio art, had no plans to one day make a living as a painter. “I didn’t come to Amherst planning to study art,” she says, “but the studio faculty was one of the best parts of my experience there, and I got hooked.”

Her third, and most recent, solo exhibition at SHFAP included nearly 40 small works based on scenes Ray painted while visiting France, Italy, Scotland and Iceland, and around her home in Brooklyn. “I’m painting places that have been particularly memorable to me,” Ray says, “and places that I’m curious to see painted.”

Painting by Eleanor Ray '01
Eleanor Ray, “Spring Street Doorway” (2015), oil on panel

From museums and friends’ studios to churches that house Renaissance fresco paintings, Ray says she’s interested in painting places with specific relevance to fellow artists. “Painting has such a long history, which is partly why I was always drawn to it,” she says. “Its past is still alive and shifting in relation to the new.”

About the author:

Rachel Rogol covers the arts for the Amherst Office of Communications.