Yvonne Jacquette, an artist who could frequently be found on an upper floor of a skyscraper or in an airplane getting unusual perspectives for the urban and country landscapes she painted, an adventurousness that led one of her museum exhibitions to be titled “Aerial Muse,” died on April 23 at her home in Manhattan. She was 88.
Her son, the artist Tom Burckhardt, said the cause was a heart attack.
Ms. Jacquette made a career out of looking at things differently, starting in the 1960s.
“I was beginning to do yoga, and I had to look up at the ceiling in my loft, which was stamped tin,” she told the culture website The Brooklyn Rail in 2008. “So I did paintings of that, and of doorways and so forth, for a little while, and then suddenly it occurred to me to reverse that, and look down.”
She continued to play with perspective, taking unusual views of the shadows made by her young son’s highchair, things seen through shop windows in Manhattan’s flower district, and more. According to the DC Moore Gallery, which represents her, a flight to San Diego in 1969 caused her to take her search for new perspectives literally to another level.
“I was going to visit my parents who had just moved to California,” she said in the The Brooklyn Rail interview, “and I was in a plane with watercolors, and I started to see that the clouds were amazing when you’re right in them.”
She and her husband, the artist and photographer Rudy Burckhardt, who were based in New York, had acquired a summer home in Southern Maine in 1965, in Searsmont, an area where Neil Welliver, Alex Katz and other artists congregated.
Ms. Jacquette said she had been looking for a way to set her work apart from the others when, conveniently, a flight school opened nearby. A pilot took her up in a small plane. The first result wasn’t artistic inspiration but rather nausea. Yet she wasn’t dissuaded.
“I decided to go once every week, all summer, to try to get used to it and try to draw,” she said in a 2016 talk at Colby College in Maine, “and after about the fourth or fifth time, I got a drawing that wasn’t too terrible.”
Aerial views became her signature, and she grew more comfortable in small planes. Often, one trip aloft would not do.
For “Autumn Expanse,” a three-panel mural of fall foliage commissioned in 1979 for the lobby of the federal building in Bangor, Maine, she hopped a plane in Belfast, near Searsmont, to get an aerial view of a patch of trees.
“I flew from Belfast at noon every day in mid-September for five days to get the same light,” she told The Bangor Daily News in 1981, with the pilot circling the area for more than an hour each time.
Ms. Jacquette took the technique back to New York as well, visiting skyscrapers and renting high-floor hotel rooms in addition to the occasional flight.
“The view of the earth which we find in these pictures is roughly of the sort we get from a prospector’s biplane,” John Russell wrote in a New York Times review of her 1976 show at the Brooke Alexander gallery in Manhattan, “a plunging, wavering, oddly oriented view which yet makes perfect sense for her purpose. Some of the paintings deal with subject matter — Midtown Manhattan, for instance — that is famous for its awesomeness, but they are not ‘about’ those great spectacles. They are about the nature of vision and the present state of art.”
The World Trade Center towers were among her favorite perches, but the paintings she made from those excursions weren’t simple views from one window; she would go back and forth from tower to tower, starting on a lower floor and working her way higher and higher, ultimately producing a work that was a sort of composite of all those views.
Ms. Jacquette did not confine herself to Maine and Manhattan; she took her aerial technique to many other places, including overseas.
Some of her most striking paintings were night views from the sky, like “Night Panorama With Jefferson Memorial” (1983), a 6-by-10-foot work commissioned for the American Medical Association’s headquarters in Washington. In 2003, when it was exhibited at the Hudson River Museum, in Yonkers, N.Y., as part of the “Aerial Muse” retrospective, William Zimmer, writing in The Times, called the work “quietly epic.”
Yvonne Helene Jacquette was born on Dec. 15, 1934, in Pittsburgh. Her father, William, was an accountant and management consultant, and her mother, Helen (Amrhein) Jacquette, was a homemaker.
Ms. Jacquette attended the Rhode Island School of Design for three years beginning in 1952, though she left in her senior year without graduating because, her son said, “the only senior adviser was very conservative compared to what was happening in art at the time.”
She settled in New York and blended into the city’s art scene, marrying Mr. Burckhardt in 1964. Her work was part of a 1968 exhibition at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., called “Realism Now,” though she drew on abstraction and other genres as well. Her paintings are in the collections of more than 40 museums.
Mr. Burckhardt died in 1999. In addition to her son, she is survived by a stepson, Jacob Burckhardt; three sisters, Germaine Jacquette, Arlene Jacquette and Jeanne Jacquette Arago; two brothers, William and Robert Jacquette; and three grandchildren.
In addition to planes and skyscrapers, Ms. Jacquette sometimes soared in helicopters to get her views, though she found that she couldn’t sketch in them and took photographs from them instead. To get the proper angle, the door had to be removed.
“I just have to accept that I’m strapped in and can’t fall out,” she told The Brooklyn Rail, “but it still feels very vulnerable.”
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