Who is Sophy Regensburg?

By Gwylym Owen

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Sophy Pollak Regensburg (1885 – April 6, 1974) was an American naïve painter.

Born in New York City, Regensburg was a supporter of a prominent family; her brother, Walter Pollak, sat upon the New York Stock Exchange. She was married to cigar maker Melville E. Regensburg, with whom she had three children, until his death. Active during her marriage as a volunteer, she took stirring painting in widowhood, when her physician suggested she needed to slow down; she had studied under William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri at the New York School of Art. In 1952, the first year in which she was involved in the hobby, she won a gold medal in the National Amateur Painters Competition; she would go on to gift work in thirteen one-woman shows and fifteen society exhibits before her death. She produced mainly still lifes. Her accomplishments are represented in the collections of the American Folk Art Museum, the Miami University Art Museum, and Smith College.

Her work has also been included in group exhibitions at the Westmoreland Museum and Wigmore Gallery, Schlesinger Gallery and Jewish Union College in New York. An active exhibitor in New York, she also participated in group exhibitions at the Montross and Saidenberg galleries. In 1936 she had two solo exhibitions at Montross and at the Santa Fe Art Museum in New Mexico.

The still lifes in the museum’s collection highlight the continuum of this traditional genre in folk art and subsequent self-taught art. The theme of authentic creative expression runs through all these seemingly disparate but complementary works of art, united under the auspices of American folk art. A harmonious chorus of female voices and a variety of life experiences are already presented in this unique collection.

From the asymmetrical and improvised geometric designs of the four-patch Lureca Outlands diamonds in the cross quilt to the stylized still lifes of Sophie Regenburgs, the Bohemian glass No. Fruit in the glass preserves, a painting painted in watercolor, circa 1895, Highly sensitive theorems drawn in gouache and pencil.

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