Paul Georges, Felix + Yvette Sagaponack, 1980, oil on canvas, 41 1/2 x 60”.

Felix Pène du Bois (1957–2018)

The painter Felix Pène du Bois, a fixture of 56 Bleecker Gallery in the 1980s who gained recognition for portraying allegorical scenes inspired by the city life around her, died on May 31 in New Orleans at age sixty-one. The cause was suicide after she went years without medical treatment for schizophrenia and depression. She is survived by her husband, Curtis Rogers.

Pène du Bois was born Clodagh McKenney in 1957 in Brookline, Massachusetts, into an artistic family. Her grandfather was the painter and critic Guy Pène du Bois; her uncle William was a cofounder of the Paris Review; her mother, Yvonne, was also a painter; and her aunt Willa Kim was a theatrical costumer. She traveled widely from an early age, and in 1975 she learned technique under Segniori Seimi in Florence, soon after developing her style under the tutelage of figurative painter Paul Georges at Brandeis University. After exhibiting in Boston, she moved to New York City in 1981, where she became a regular among the diverse community at 56 Bleecker Gallery. Last year, Pène du Bois’s work was featured in the group show “Love Among the Ruins: 56 Bleecker Gallery and Late 80s New York” at Howl Arts. Like her grandfather, Pène du Bois depicted the society around her with intense color, though she often did so through fabulist elements, with a loftier scale and a brighter, Fauvist palette. “Once you have seen her paintings you do not forget them,” Lawrence Campbell wrote in an Art in America review from 1989.  

“Felix’s paintings are a source of light,” critic and poet Rene Ricard wrote in a lively essay on Pène du Bois—therein only referred to as “Felix”—for Artforum’s September 1986 issue. “This is an artist who has learned how to make pictures shimmer and they would work if they only had their paint, but they also take us to faraway places and advertise a vivid and personal world that is a vacation for the heart and an antidote for eyes poisoned by the toxic by-products of art history.”