Freilicher and Wilson at the Parrish

An artistic friendship celebrated in “Jane Freilicher and Jane Wilson: Seen and Unseen,”
Jane Wilson looked on as Jane Freilicher examined a 1957 issue of Life magazine that featured her and her work. Douglas Rodewald

According to John Gruen, there are not many photographs of his wife, Jane Wilson, and Jane Freilicher together. As the unofficial documentarian of the East End faction of the New York School, he would know. But he has also testified in his autobiography to their friendship and artistic kinship, often painting together in the early years of their South Fork residency.

That friendship will be celebrated in “Jane Freilicher and Jane Wilson: Seen and Unseen,” opening at the Parrish Art Museum on Sunday. The exhibition will trace each artist’s development, from the 1950s to 2007, using some 20 paintings from each, with supporting works on paper and photo-graphs by Mr. Gruen. Included will be several genres: landscape, portraiture, and still life. Portraits of the artists by Fairfield Porter and Alex Katz will also be on view.

Freilicher and Wilson were born in the same year, 1924, in completely different worlds. Freilicher, born Jane Niederhoffer, grew up in Brooklyn in an immigrant family. “Freilicher” was the last name of her first husband, whom she married when she was 17. She eventually married Joe Hazen but used her first married name professionally.

Wilson grew up on a farm in Iowa, her vision of an open landscape no doubt shaped by vast acres of fields. By the 1950s both were in New York City and painting. Wilson was known for her great beauty and Freilicher, while also attractive, for her great wit.

Both artists worked in abstraction early in their careers. Freilicher studied with Hans Hofmann and Wilson hung out with the downtown Abstract Expressionists. It has been suggested that both were affected by their friendship with Porter, but it was probably more complicated than that. In Freilicher’s case it was a shared appreciation with Porter for the work of Pierre Bonnard, in addition to exhibitions she saw of work by Matisse, Vuillard, and Courbet. In a late work she reproduced Watteau’s “Pierrot” as part of a tableau looking out on the landscape she knew best, the view from her Water Mill summer house, a constant background that only seemed to be interchanged with the view from her Greenwich Village apartment.

A show last year at the D.C. Moore Gallery in Chelsea reminded us that Wilson did paint more naturalistic paintings of her downtown neighborhood, as well as interiors and people. It was her fascination with weather from her childhood, however, that propelled her to ditch full abstraction for something more akin to real life. It may have also been her Water Mill studio view, high on a top floor of a barn converted into living and working space. Her overwhelming layered skies with their very low horizon line, as abstract at times as a Rothko, could be quite literal, particularly when painted, as she did, from memory.

The artists’ differing approaches to similar ends are the impetus for the show’s secondary title, “Seen and Unseen,” and the exhibition will demonstrate how Freilicher’s similar studio views and variety of objects play against the atmosphere and evanescence of Wilson’s ethereal compositions.

The show will open at the same time as “Alexis Rockman: East End Field Drawings,” an exhibition of 93 works on paper in which the artist creates his own guide to local plants and animals. Nature itself becomes part of the work as he employs sand and soil to create them, sourced from places such as Hither Hills State Park, Poxabogue Pond, and Cedar Point. He favors as his subjects endangered species in our own landscape, threatened by development and construction within their habitats.

Both shows will remain on view through Jan. 18, 2016.

Jane Freilicher’s “Flowering Pear,” from the upcoming Parrish Art Museum show “Seen and Unseen.”