Early Work

In 1946, at the age of 26, Honoré Sharrer described her work as “vicious, tender, and meticulous.” The description succinctly conveys the poetic sensibility, humanism, and documentary impulse that grounded her artistic vision.

These concerns developed largely out of her early life experiences. Sharrer was born on the West Point Military Academy; her mother was a respected artist and her father a military engineer. The family moved throughout the United States, as well as to the Philippines and Paris, France. During these travels Sharrer studied painting with her mother and honed her appreciation for a wide range of art history.

Sharrer enrolled at Yale University in 1937, but after a year of coursework she returned home to California, feeling that the institution was unable to help her grasp what she wished to say as an artist. Sharrer conceived of painting as a voice of change and empathy. This was due in part to her family’s progressive leaning. It was also due to her admiration of the community-based murals created under the government-funded New Deal programs, which helped relieve unemployment during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

 

Image: Honoré Sharrer. American, 1920–2009. Workers and Paintings, 1943. Oil on composition board. 11 5/8 × 37 in. (29.53 × 93.98 cm). Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift of Lincoln Kirstein