Lilyan Bachrach’s work in enamel is remarkably wide-ranging and diverse. In a career spanning five decades she has produced an extraordinary body of work that includes jewelry, functional vessels, decorative plaques, switch plates, mezuzahs, and other religious and ceremonial forms. A superb craftsman, she is equally well-versed at abstraction and representation, cloisonné technique and overglaze painting. The lush floral images she portrays on her decorative plates are perfectly suited to the forms on which they are rendered and her enamel jewelry is invariably bold, inventive, and visually rich.
Lilyan Bachrach was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1917. In 1921, when she was four, her family moved to Lowell, Massachusetts where her parents established a curtain and drapery manufacturing business and, over time, several retail shops. Through her parents Bachrach learned to appreciate fine fabrics as she developed a lifelong commitment to quality workmanship. After producing several textile designs for the family business, Bachrach enrolled in 1934 as a student at Boston University where she studied to become an interior designer. While there, through a mutual friend, she met her future husband, a student at Tuft’s Medical School. She and Sam Bachrach were married in 1938. While her husband served in the military during World War II, she raised their growing family and, after the War, helped manage Sam’s expanding medical practice.
In the early 1950s, she enrolled in a metals class at the Worcester Center for Crafts where, in 1955, she was introduced to enameling. While she found some of the initial classes limiting, she eventually participated with seven other women in an informal enameling workshop called the “Lenox Enamelers.” There she developed an abiding passion for the medium. As she later stated: “I fell in love with enamels because of the infinite range of colors and their tactile quality.” About this same time, she enrolled in a workshop under the direction of the Cleveland-trained artist Doris Hall, held at Hall’s studio in Boston. While the class met weekly for only six weeks, this experience had a profound influence on Bachrach’s development as an artist. As she observed later in life, Bachrach found Hall’s looser, more painterly approach to enameling refreshing and highly compatible with her own. She later studied cloisonné technique at the Worcester Center for Crafts with the masterful artist Joseph Trippetti and, over the years, participated in workshops led by a wide variety of artists including Mary Kretsinger, Charles Bartley Jeffery, Kenneth Bates, Fiammetta Hsieh, and others. In the late 1960s, Bachrach resumed formal studies at the Worcester Art Museum School where she was awarded a BFA in 1969.
Lilyan Bachrach also produced two important books on enameling technique. The first Enameling with Professionals was published in 2002 and the second, Contemporary Enameling: Arts and Techniques was published in 2006. A testament to the extraordinary work of her friends and colleagues, Bachrach’s publications are comprised of brief essays on enameling by artists working in diverse styles and formats. Her books offer unique insight into both form and process.