Born in 1954 and raised in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, Marla Friedman developed her art and interest in academic realism at the Art Students League in New York City with portraitist Nelson Shanks and artistic anatomy with Robert Beverly Hale; and at the National Academy of Design in NYC. She continued her study of natural realism at L’Ecole Albert Defois in the Loire Valley, France. Independent study in France and Italy further expanded her understanding of the Realist Tradition in painting and drawing. While in Paris, Friedman discovered her greatest affinity in the work of the late nineteenth century French academic master, Leon Bonnat, whose painting reflects a combined influence of French and Spanish sensibilities.

As a professional painter in New York City she maintained her painting studio in the historic Carnegie Hall Studios; and was represented for her oil and pastel portraiture with the legendary Grand Central Gallery on West 57th Street.

Ms. Friedman's portraiture in painting and sculpture is represented exclusively by Hollis Taggart Galleries in New York City.

'Friedman’s work illuminates the artist’s reverence for a nuanced and delicate, yet powerful, interpretation of her subject.' - Hollis Taggart Galleries Chicago. Alan Artner, Chicago Tribune art critic, states of her one woman retrospective at Hollis Taggart Galleries Chicago, Friedman Show Evinces Portraiture Elegance..... [ Her paintings ] present the artist’s strong technique with admirable, even beguiling, clarity.’

Friedman’s client/commissions include Mr. Alex Manoogian, Armenian General Benevolent Union; Apollo 13 former astronaut Captain James A. Lovell, Jr., collection of the United States Naval Academy Museum; Ambassador Richard S. Williamson, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations and Special Envoy to Sudan; Mr. Stedman Graham, Athletes Against Drugs: Chicago Bears' George Halas; Temple Sholom in Chicago; Mr. Arthur Rubloff ; the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; restaurateur Arnie Morton, ‘Mortons’; the legendary Vince Lombardi in association with the Lombardi estate; 'Hermit's Repose', life-size figurative oil on wood panel on permanent exhibit at the Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago, Illinois. Paintings of Abraham Lincoln are on permanent display at the Illinois Governor’s Mansion in Springfield, Illinois and her large-scale narrative depiction of the assassination of Wild Bill Hickok, ‘Aces and Eights’, hangs at the site of Wild Bill’s last card game in Deadwood, South Dakota. 

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois commissioned Friedman from 2008 through 2012 to paint the oil portraits of their Lincoln Leadership Prize recipients. On March 5th, 2009 the ALPLM honored retired United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor with the unveiling of her portrait at the Union League Club of Chicago. Sittings with Justice O’Connor took place at the United Stated Supreme Court in Washington, DC. Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s portrait was presented to the South African leader at a ceremony in May of 2008 in Springfield. Former astronaut Captain James A. Lovell was the honored recipient in 2010 with Tom Hanks, who portrayed Lovell in the film Apollo 13, unveiling his portrait. The late Tim Russert of NBC's Meet the Press was the fourth recipient in 2011. His portrait was unveiled by Luke Russert and announced by his colleague Tom Brokaw. In 2012 the former President of Poland Lech Walesa's portrait was unveiled as the ALPLF honored the Nobel Peace Prize recipient with their fifth Lincoln Leadership Prize award. It will join the portraits of the former recipients, along with Friedman’s oil portrait of Abraham Lincoln, in Springfield. The portraits are on permanent exhibit at the ALPLM.


Marla Friedman's discovered interest in sculpture has led the artist to a new path and expression in her art. Her bust sculpture of Captain James Lovell was unveiled in 2010 at the opening ceremony of the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, Illinois. Her second collaboration with Captain Lovell, where upon the fourth sitting Lovell carved his name into the clay to create an historic document of the work, was ceremonially unveiled in May, 2013.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation commissioned Friedman to sculpt the portrait bust of Abraham Lincoln as the signature work of art for their campaign to retain the Louise Taper Collection of Abraham Lincoln's personal artifacts.

Rosa Parks, "My Soul Was Rested"

On November 20th, 2015 Ms. Friedman's soulful sculptural interpretation of Rosa Parks titled, Rosa Parks, "My Soul Was Rested" was unveiled at Manchester Bidwell Corporation in Pittsburgh. The bronze portrait sculpture was donated by philanthropist and Paylocity founder, Mr. Steve Sarowitz to Manchester Bidwell in recognition of the 60th anniversary of Rosa Parks' historic act of bravery on December 1st, 1955; and to honor the continuing legacy of Rosa Parks through Manchester Bidwell Corporation and its founder, Mr. Bill Strickland.

Of her sculptural rendition of 'The First Lady of Civil Rights', Friedman says, "I tried to 'listen' and then impart in clay the resolute and spiritual quality of Rosa Parks and her brave pivotal moment in history ~ and the tranquility of inner peace from a graceful, momentous life so well lived. In Rosa Parks' words, when she made the decision not to give up her seat her "Soul was rested". Amidst the turmoil she could be at peace in her soul. I sensed that Rosa Parks was a conduit to a higher power in that moment ~ when universal forces converged."

Self taught in sculpture, Friedman has been influenced by the study of the classical masters Augustus Saint Gaudens and Daniel Chester French, by the powerful work of Augustus Rodin and, most significantly, by the natural realism of portraitist Jo Davidson (1883-1953), who sculpted his subjects with the immediacy of life sittings. The artist resides in the Chicago area.