Judith Rothschild was born in New York in 1921. She was raised in New York and attended Wellesley College, near Boston. After graduating, she studied painting at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan and later at the Art Students League in New York, where in 1945 she had her first solo exhibition. Rothschild married in 1947 and moved to California, where she discovered the beauty of the coastal landscape. This became an important subject in her work. Over the years she painted the California coast in dramatic colors integrated into finely balanced compositions. Rothschild’s landscape paintings of the 1960s balance clear horizontal planes showing the sea and a horizon line against strong vertical elements that suggest wharf-like structures. Rothschild used rich, dark colors mixed with lighter tones to evoke different effects of light. By the late 1960s Rothschild had simplified her work, using strong outlines played against planes of bold color, creating a dazzling effect. The Phillips Collection’s work, Interior (1970) is an example of Rothschild’s expressive use of color and controlled forms.
In the mid 1970s, Rothschild’s artistic style shifted. She began creating abstract reliefs with foamboard cutouts that mimicked the paper cutouts made by Henri Matisse at the end of his career. Rothschild placed her cutouts—often white—against colored backgrounds. During this period, she continued to expand her style, in her late work cutting painted canvases with a razor to create shapes.
For the following twenty years, notwithstanding age and failing health, Judith Rothschild continued to explore new modes of expression. She traveled and worked in Europe and Iran until her death in 1993. Rothschild’s experiences as a modern artist encouraged her concern for the promotion of unrecognized artists, and so she made provision in her will for establishing the Judith Rothschild Foundation to support publicizing and exhibiting the work of lesser-known, recently deceased artists and to assist museums in acquiring their work.