Isabel Bishop (1902-1988) was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to John Remsen Bishop and Anna Bartram Newbold Bishop. Shortly after her birth the family moved to Detroit, Michigan. As a child Bishop took art classes and had a growing interest in drawing. In 1918 at the age of 16 she left home and moved to New York City where she enrolled in the School of Applied Design for Women to be an illustrator. However, her real interest was in painting, not the graphic arts, and she enrolled in the Art Students League in 1920. There she studied with Kenneth Hayes Miller and Guy Pene du Bois and met many young artists, including Reginald Marsh and Edwin Dickinson, both of whom became close friends. She took classes until 1924 and rented a studio and living space on 14th Street in a neighborhood where many artists maintained studios at the time.
Bishop began exhibiting her work and participated in artist groups, including the Whitney Studio Club and the New Society of Artists. During the 1920s and 1930s she developed a realist style of painting, primarily depicting women in their daily routine on the streets of Manhattan. Her work was greatly influenced by Peter Paul Rubens and other Dutch and Flemish painters that she had discovered during trips to Europe. In 1932 Bishop began showing her work frequently at the newly opened Midtown Galleries, where her work would be represented throughout her career.
In 1934 she married Harold Wolff, a neurologist, and moved with him to Riverdale, New York. Bishop kept her studio in Manhattan, moving from 14th Street to Union Square. She remained in her Union Square studio for fifty years (1934-1984). From 1936 to 1937 she taught at the Art Students League and in 1940 her son Remsen was born. In 1941 she was named a member of the National Academy of Design and from 1944 to 1946 she was the Vice President of the National Institute of Arts & Letters, the first woman to hold an executive position with that organization. She wrote articles and joined other artists in speaking out in support of realist painting and against the abstract style that was dominating the New York art scene.
During her long career which lasted into the 1980s, Bishop exhibited in numerous group and solo exhibitions, traveled throughout the U. S. as an exhibition juror, and won many awards for her work, including the award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts presented by President Jimmy Carter in 1979.