Eric Fischl

A Visit To / A Visit From / The Island

Not on view



Oil on canvas

Overall: 84 × 168in. (213.4 × 426.7 cm)

Accession number

Credit line
Purchase, with funds from the Louis and Bessie Adler Foundation, Inc., Seymour M. Klein, President

Rights and reproductions
© Eric Fischl / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Eric Fischl’s A Visit To/A Visit From/The Island uses two adjoining large canvases to contrast vastly disparate groups of people seemingly in the same setting. On the left he depicts what appears to be a white upper-middle-class American family of four vacationing at a sunny, holiday resort. The second panel portrays a frantic scene in which a group of black men and women, who appear to be refugees, try to pull themselves from a bluish black churning sea. Rendered in much darker, ominous hues than those of its counterpart, the frenzied image was based on a photograph of Haitian refugees arriving on the Florida coast. While the two canvases depict jarringly different scenes, the similarities between the images also emphasize their polarity. For instance, both depict foreshortened naked bodies lying diagonally in the foreground, highlighting the stark shifts in color and context between the panels. The relaxed laziness of the tourists pitted against the desperation of the Haitians emphasizes the inequalities between the two groups and the irony in the choices that racial difference and privilege allow—the whites are paying to visit an island that the residents risk their lives to leave.


  • Fast Forward: Painting from the 1980s

    Eric Fischl, A Visit To / A Visit From / The Island, 1983

    Eric Fischl, A Visit To / A Visit From / The Island, 1983


    Eric Fischl: The painting has on the left panel a scene of people, presumably a family sort of frolicking in the crystal clear waters of a Caribbean Island. 

    Narrator: Eric Fischl discusses his painting, A Visit To / A Visit From / The Island.

    Eric Fischl: There's some reference to a hotel/condo building in the background on a white beach. In the panel on the [right] is a scene of absolute desperation and tragedy of Haitian boat people who have attempted to escape their hell and have washed up on the shores of Miami. I created a place that is emotionally uninhabitable for any length of time.

    Through the news media—through our sort of global reach in terms of information, the drama and tragedies, the desperation, comes into our awareness, into our homes every day and creates a tension riveted by the drama of people trying to survive. And at the same time, living in a place where you actually can't help or you can't help them in an immediate and direct way, creates, in me anyway, a huge conflict. Knowing that this other stuff was going on, which was far more urgent, far more important. So I guess what it is, is the horrible irony of the simultaneity of our world.

Eric Fischl
18 works

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