Realist painter Honoré Sharrer (1920-2009) lived and worked in New York, Massachusetts, London, Montreal and Charlottesville, Virginia. She was best known for her five-panel painting, Tribute to the American Working People, completed in 1951 and first shown at M. Knoedler & Co. in New York to wide critical acclaim.
Sharrer was born in 1920 in West Point, New York, where her father was an Army officer, and grew up in the United States, the Philippines, Paris, and La Jolla, California. She studied at the Yale University School of Art and the San Francisco Art Institute, and worked as a welder in shipyards in California and New Jersey during World War II. She moved to New York in the 1940s and lived subsequently in Amherst, Massachusetts, London, and Montreal.
Sharrer's Workers and Paintings (1943) was included in the landmark Museum of Modern Art exhibition, Fourteen Americans, in 1946, and her painting, Man at Fountain, was featured in the 1950 Life Magazine cover story, "Nineteen Young American Artists." Tribute to the American Working People, which depicted a factory worker surrounded by smaller scenes of ordinary life, was considered her masterwork, but in the years that followed it's unveiling at M. Knoedler & Co., Sharrer was noticeably absent from the art scene; between 1951 and 1969 she did not have a single solo exhibition. While many of her contemporaries immersed themselves in Abstract Expressionism, Sharrer continued to paint, in meticulous detail, the daily experiences of ordinary working people, and her later work often dealt with female perspectives and was imbued with humor and elements of magical realism.
In 2007 the Smithsonian American Art Museum held an exhibition titled Anatomy of a Painting: Honoré Sharrer's 'Tribute to the American Working People,' which was devoted exclusively to her most famous work, now in the Smithsonian's permanent collection, and the source material she used when painting it. Sharrer's works can also be found in the Metroplitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
Sharrer settled in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the early 1990s. She was married to her second husband, historian Perez Zagorin, for 61 years, before her death in 2009. Her mother, Madeleine Sharrer, was also a painter who married Reginald Poland, Director of the Fine Arts Gallery, San Diego, following the death of Sharrer's father, Robert Allen Sharrer.