Louise Nevelson

Louise Nevelson

1899–1988

Artist Details

Birth Place
Kiev, Russia
Death Place
New York City
Phonetic Spelling
loo-EEZ NEHV-ehl-sehn
Medium
Drawings and prints; Painting; Sculpture
Style
Assemblage
Places of Residence
Rockland, Maine; New York City
Training
Atelier 17, New York City, 1953; Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts, Munich, 1931; The Art Students League of New York, New York City, 1929–30; International Theater Arts Institute, New York City, 1926
Retrospective Exhibitions

Louise Nevelson, Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine, 2010–2011; The Sculpture of Louise Nevelson: Constructing a Legend, The Jewish Museum, New York, 2007; Louise Nevelson: Wood Sculptures, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota 1973; Louise Nevelson, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1967

NMWA Exhibitions

Louise Nevelson: Dawn's Wedding Feast, 2008
Preserving the Past, Securing the Future: Donations of Art, 1987–97, 1997–98
The Washington Print Club Thirtieth Anniversary Exhibition: Graphic Legacy, 1994–95

About the Artist

Louise Nevelson is considered one of the most important American sculptors of the twentieth century for her pioneering assemblages and monumental public art.

Nevelson was born in Kiev, Russia, but her family settled in Rockland, Maine, in 1905 where her father operated a lumberyard. Nevelson grew up playing with scraps from the lumberyard, and by the age of ten had declared her intention to be a professional sculptor. In 1920, she married wealthy ship owner Charles Nevelson and moved to New York. Nevelson gave birth to a son two years later, but the marriage did not last; they separated in the early 1930s and divorced in 1941.

In 1931–32, Nevelson studied with abstract painter Hans Hofmann in Munich and later New York. Through him, she discovered Cubism and collage, which greatly influenced her artistic development. She also worked for a time as an assistant to Diego Rivera on a mural project, and as an art teacher hired by the Works Progress Administration, which helped support many artists in the 1930s.

Though she had her first solo exhibition at the Nierendorf Gallery in New York in 1941, Nevelson did not develop her signature monochromatic, spray-painted wooden assemblages until the late 1950s. She constructed abstract compositions by arranging scavenged bits of discarded wood in boxes, stacking them to form sculptural walls and environments, and unifying them by painting them a single color.

A 1958 exhibition of Nevelson’s all-black environments caused a sensation. Her room-size, all-white Dawn’s Wedding Feast sculptural group garnered major recognition for Nevelson at Sixteen Americans, a group show at The Museum of Modern Art in 1959–60.  

Though she had been working actively as an artist for decades, she was in her sixties by the time her reputation began to soar.  During the 1960s, she represented the United States at the prestigious Venice Biennial art fair and was honored with a retrospective exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. In subsequent years, Nevelson received six honorary doctorates and continued to exhibit her work regularly in Europe and the United States.

National Museum of Women in the Arts