An Iconic Pioneering American Artist ... who happened to be female, educator, wife, mother, sister, grandma, great-grandma, and a really great friend to some.
Louise Nevelson® sculpted assemblages from found wood objects and painted them all one color, most notably black. She went on to brilliantly use other materials, e.g. Cor-Ten steel, aluminum, Plexigas. Her unique process transformed everyday materials into compositions that transcended space and altered the viewer's perception of art. Exhibition rooms of monochromatic works on the floor, walls and sometimes hanging from the ceiling, allowed the visitor passage through her world of the mysterious, of the fourth dimension.
Nevelson also considered her persona as an extension of the sculptures and delightfully collaged ethnic clothing with jewelry, her head wrapped in scarves and riding hats, and eyes highlighted with layers of velvety black mink eyelashes into a unique fashion, making Eleanor Lambert's "Best Dressed International Women" fashion list in 1977.
Photographers found a fascinating subject in Louise Nevelson® and Robert Mapplethorpe, Hans Namuth, Cecil Beaton, Pedro E. Guererro, Jack Mitchell, Marie Cosindas, Diana Mackown, Arnold Newman, and Richard Avedon, to name "a few", have given us memorable portraits of this captivating grande dame of the art world.
Louise Nevelson® was celebrated in her lifetime. She received numerous recognitions, e.g. National Medal of the Arts with President Ronald Reagan, with President Jimmy Carter the Women's Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award, Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture, Brandeis University Creative Arts Award in Sculpture, National Arts Club Gold Medal in the Visual Arts, American Institute of Architects Medal, and Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She had great energy and in her 70's and 80's she was awarded three magnificent commissions - "Bicentennial Dawn" environment for Philadelphia's Federal Court House with a dedication by First Lady Betty Ford, "Louise Nevelson Plaza" an outdoor environmental park in Lower Manhattan, and the indoor environmental "Nevelson Chapel" of the Good Shepherd at St. Peter's Church in Midtown Manhattan. Major museums, municipalities, and esteemed private collections worldwide avidly purchased her works and still do so today.
Born: 1899. Died: 1988.
Louise Nevelson® was born in Pereiaslav, Ukraine, emigrated to Rockland, Maine, and lived in New York City until she passed away.
“Humans really are heir to every possibility within themselves, and it is only up to us to admit it and accept it. You see, you can buy the whole world and you are empty, but when you create the whole world, you are full.” - Louise Nevelson® interview with Arnold Glimcher.
“My total conscious search in life has been for a new seeing, a new image, a new insight. This search not only includes the object, but the in-between place. The dawns and the dusks. The objective world, the heavenly spheres, the places between the land and sea...Whatever creation man invents, the image can be found in nature. We cannot see anything that we are not already aware of. The inner, the outer = One.”
- Louise Nevelson
Note: Chronology will be updated periodically as new information becomes available.
1899 . Born September 23 in Pereiaslav near Kiev, Russia. Isaac Berliawsky and Anne Minna Ziesel Smolerank had four children: Nathan, Louise, Anita and Lillian.
1905 . The family moved to the United States and settled in Rockland, Maine where Isaac eventually established a lumber business and bought, sold and built houses.
1918 . Graduated from Rockland High School.
1920 . Married Charles Nevelson and moved to New York.
. Studied voice with Metropolitan Opera Coach, Estelle Liebling, New York.
1922 . Son Myron (Mike) was born.
1926 . Studied dramatics with Norina Matchabelli, New York.
1928 . Attended lecture by Jiddu Krishnamurti, Town Hall, New York.
1929-30 . Studied at the Art Students League with Kenneth Hayes Miller and Kimon Nicolaides, New York.
1931 . Separates from Charles Nevelson.
. Studied with Hans Hofmann in Munich.
. Worked as an extra in films in Berlin and Vienna.
1932 . Continued traveling in Europe and goes to Italy and France.
. Studied with Hans Hofmann in New York.
1933 . Assistant to Diego Rivera; worked on mural for The New Workers’ School, New York.
. Studied modern dance with Ellen Kearns (for 20 years).
1934 . Studied sculpture with Chaim Gross at the Educational Alliance Art School, New York; classes taught in Yiddish.
1935 . Taught art under Works Progress Administration (WPA) at Flatbush Boys Club, New York.
1936-39 . Taught art under Works Progress Administration (WPA), New York.
1941 . FIRST solo exhibition at the Nierendorf Gallery, New York.
1943 . Minna Berliawsky died.
. Solo shows at the Nierendorf Gallery, New York.
. Solo Show at Norlyst Gallery, New York, “The Clown is the Center of His World”.
1944 . Solo show at the Nierendorf Gallery, New York.
1945 . Berliawsky Family purchased house for Louise Nevelson on East 30th Street, New York.
1946 . Isaac Berliawsky died.
. Solo show at the Nierendorf Gallery, New York.
1947 . Studied etching with Stanley William Hayter at Atelier 17, New York.
1948 . Traveled to England, France and Italy.
. Worked at the Sculpture Center, New York in terra-cotta and stone.
1949 . Worked at the Sculpture Center, New York in terra-cotta and stone.
1950 - . Active in may organizations: Artists Equity; Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors; National Association of Women Artists; Sculptors Guild; League of Present Day Artists; New York Society of Ceramic Arts; American Abstract Artists.
1950-51 . Made one trip to Mexico and another to Guatemala to see Pre-Columbian art.
. Worked at the Sculpture Center, New York in terra-cotta and stone.
1953 . Four O’Clock Forum Sunday, panel discussions for artists, held at 30th Street house.
. Studied with Peter Grippe and Leo Katz at Atelier 17, New York.
1954 . Produces first series of wood landscape sculptures.
. Member, Sculptor’s Guild.
. Solo show of etchings at Lotte Jacobi Gallery.
1955 . First solo show at Grand Central Moderns, New York, “Ancient Games and Ancient Places”.
1956 . Whitney Museum of American Art acquired Black Majesty.
. Solo show at Grand Central Moderns, New York, “The Royal Voyage”.
1957 . The Brooklyn Museum acquired First Personage.
. Director-at-Large of the New York Chapter of Artists Equity (1957-59).
. Solo show at Grand Central Moderns, New York, “The Forest”.
1958 . The Museum of Modern Art acquired Sky Cathedral.
. Purchased house at 29 Spring Street, New York.
. Solo show at Grand Central Moderns, New York, “Moon Garden + One”.
1959 . Received First Prize for work in "Art U.S.A.," exhibition at New York Coliseum, New York.
. Solo show at Martha Jackson Gallery, New York, “Sky Columns Presence”.
. Group show at Museum of Modern Art, New York, “16 Americans”; exhibits Dawns Wedding Feast.
1959-60 . Member, National Association of Women Artists.
1960 . Received Logan Award from The Art Institute of Chicago for work shown in "63rd American Exhibition."
. First solo show at Daniel Cordier Gallery, Paris.
1961 . First solo show at Pace Gallery Boston.
. Solo show at Martha Jackson Gallery, New York, “Royal Tides”.
1962 . Sculpture included in United States Pavilion, XXXI Biennale Internazionale d'Arte, Venice. Met Alberto Giacometti.
. Participated in Conference of World Affairs, which included international leaders in the fields of science, government, arts, etc.
. Whitney Museum of American Art acquired YoungShadows.
. Affiliated with the Sidney Janis Gallery; their first American sculptor and first woman.
. Solo show at Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Germany.
1963 . Fellowship at Tamarind Workshop, Los Angeles, where she completed an edition of 26 lithographs; June Wayne, Founder.
. President of the National Artists Equity.
. Solo show at Sidney Janis Gallery, New York.
. Solo show at Hanover Gallery, London.
1964 . Solo shows at Pace Gallery, Boston and New York; association continues to present.
. First monograph “Louise Nevelson” by Colette Roberts, Paris.
. Solo show Kunsthalle, Bern, Switzerland.
1965 . Participated in National Council on the Arts and Government in Washington, D.C.
. The Israel Museum in Jerusalem acquired Homage to 6,000,000 II.
. Gifted Tate Gallery in London with An American Tribute to the British People.
. White House Festival of the Arts, Washington, DC.
1966 . Honorary degree from Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio.
. Vice-President of the International Association of Artists.
. Head of Advisory Council on Art of the National Historic Sites Foundation, Inc.
. New York City Citizenship Achievement Award.
1967 . FIRST Retrospective show at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
1968 . Group show, Documenta III, Kassell, Germany.
1969 . FIRST Commissioned monumental Cor-Ten steel sculpture by Princeton University Atmosphere and Environment X.
. Edward MacDowell Medal, MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire.
. Julliard School of Music, New York acquired NightsphereLight.
. Solo show Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Paris.
. Solo show Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
. Solo show Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and Kroller-Muller, Otterlo, Netherlands.
1970 . Commissioned 55' wall-sculpture by Temple Beth-El, Great Neck, New York The White Flame of the Six Million.
. Solo show Whitney Museum of Art, New York.
1971 . Creative Arts Award in Sculpture from Brandeis University, Boston.
. Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture, Skowhegan, Maine.
. Solo show Pace Gallery, New York, “Seventh Decade Garden”.
1972 . Gift to the City of New York of Cor-Ten steel sculpture NightPresence IV (Park Avenue between 91st and 92nd streets).
. Monograph “Louise Nevelson” by Arnold Glimcher.
1973 . Commissioned Cor-Ten wall sculpture by Temple Israel, Boston Sky Covenant.
. Commissioned by the city of Scottsdale, Arizona, with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts Windows to the West..
. Commissioned sculpture by the City of Binghamton, New York.
. George Friedrich Handel Award: The City of New York to Louise Nevelson Whose Art and Heart Have Enriched Grateful City By John V. Lindsay Mayor December 20, 1973.
. Honorary degree, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts.
. The National Arts Club Gold Medal Visual Arts Award, New York.
. Solo show at Moderna Museet, Stockholm.
. Solo show at Studio Marconi, Milan.
1973-75 . Walker Art Center Wood Sculptures, large traveling exhibition to San Francisco Museum of Art, Dallas Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta High Museum, Kansas City Nelson Gallery, Cleveland Museum of Fine Art.
1974 . Solo shows at Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin and Centre National d’art Contemporain (CNAC), Paris.
. Solo show at Pace Gallery, New York, “Sky Gates and Collages”.
1975 . Commissioned by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge Transparent Horizon, Boston.
. Participated in two exhibitions organized by United States Information Agency, which traveled to Iran, India and Japan.
. Solo show at Minami Gallery, Tokyo.
1976 . Commissioned of wood painted white environment for General Services Administration, Federal Courthouse, Philadelphia Bicentennial Dawn. First Lady Betty Ford attended presentation ceremony for the Nation’s two hundredth birthday.
. Honorary Doctorate, New York University.
. Biography “Dawns and Dusks: Taped Conversations with Diana MacKown” by Diana MacKown.
1977 . Installation of wood painted white environment at Saint Peter's Lutheran Church, Erol Beker Chapel of the Good Shepherd, Citicorp Center, New York; conservation begun 2019.
. Commission of steel painted black monumental sculpture at Embarcadero Center, San Francisco Sky Tree.
. Honorary degree from Columbia University, New York.
. Honorary degree, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, New York.
. The American Institute of Architects Medal for Artistic Contributions to the Art of Architecture.
. Communications Award from Brandeis University National Women’s Committee, New York.
. Best Dressed List.
. Solo show Pace Gallery, New York, “Mrs. N’s Palace”.
1978 . Installation of seven Cor-Ten steel sculptures at “Louise Nevelson Plaza”, between Liberty Street and Maiden Lane in New York City, Shadows and Flags.
. Commission for The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey at the World Trade Center, New York, Sky Gate New York. Destroyed in 2001 by 9/11 Attack.
. Honorary degree from Boston University, Massachusetts.
1979 . Commission of three major Cor-Ten steel sculptures for Bendix Corporation of America, Headquarters Building, Southfield, Michigan, Trilogy. Re-installed in 1998 in Orchestra Place Building, Detroit.
. Awarded President's Medal of the Municipal Art Society of New York, New York.
. Elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York.
. Solo show at Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine and traveled to Florida and Arizona.
1980 . Whitney Museum of Art retrospective, New York, “Atmospheres and Environments”.
. Solo show Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, “Fourth Dimension.”
1981 . Solo show Galerie de France, Paris.
1982 . The Benjamin West Clinedinst Memorial Medal for Achievement of Exceptional Artistic Merit, New York.
1983 . American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters The Gold Medal for Sculpture, New York.
. Solo show Pace Gallery, New York, “Cascades Perpendicular”.
1984 . Designs sets and costumes for “Orfeo and Euridice” at Opera Theatre, St. Louis.
1985 . US Congress Award, National Medal of Art presented by US President Ronald Reagan.