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Last updated: 1/25/2017
Home / Gallery Tour 1 / Master Drawings 2003 / Gallery Tour 2 / Artists

Reuben Nakian (American, 1897-1986): Mythological Drawings

20th-Century Drawings / 20th-Century Drawings 2

Alechinsky Drawings / Artigas Drawings / Bird Drawings / Brinkman Drawings / Garache Drawings / Himmelfarb Drawings
Lledos Drawings / Titus-Carmel Drawings / Wayne Taylor Drawings / McGibbon Drawings / Joan Root Drawings

Barbier / Besnard / Henri-Edmond Cross / Leonor Fini / Forain / Goncharova / Laurencin / Lucebert
Nakian / Rouault / Schlichter / Vertes

Bishop / Bohrod / Colescott / Sparrow /
Reuben Nakian is one of the most important Modernist sculptors of the twentieth century. After studying with Paul Manship and working as a studio assistant to Gaston Lachaise, he began his career as a sculptor and became one of the major figures in the Abstract Expressionist, associating especially with Arshile Gorky and Willem DeKooning. During his long year career as an artist, he came to focus on erotic abstractions of the female figure, frequently based upon classical mythology reinterpreted for the 20th century. Nakian had his first major retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1962, soon followed by amajor exhibition curated by Frank O'Hara (who also wrote the essay for the substanital catalogue illustrating more than 100 of Nakian's works) at the Museum of Modern Art in NY in 1966. Reuben Nakian's work has been shown in museums and galleries around the world, with a major travelling exhibition to celebrate the centennial of his birth in 1997 and 1998 that showed at the Reading Public Museum in Reading, Pennsylvania and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. Nakian's sculptures demonstrate his preoccupation with drawing, and the MoMA catalogue shows a number of plaques based upon the theme of Leda and the Swan, asubject to which Nakian returned time and again, perhaps under the influence of Yeats' superb poem upon the subject, perhaps in an attempt to come to terms with previous art works on the subject, including a drawing by Michelangelo and a painting by Leonardo da Vinci.

Select Bibliography: A.D. Breeskin and T.B. Hess, Reuben Nakian (Washington D. C.: Washington Gallery of Modern Art, 1963); Charlotte Caqmillos, Reuben Nakian: Sculpture and Drawings, 1960-1985 (NY: Kouros Gallery, 1991 ); Robert W. Goldwater, Reuben Nakian: Sculpture and Drawings (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1962); Robert P. Metzger, Reuben Nakian: New Sculptures (N.Y.: Gruenebaum Gallery, 1978); Robert P. Metzger, Reuben Nakian 1897-1986: Cenntenial Retrospective (Reading: Reading Public Mueum and Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1998); Gerald Nordland, Reuben Nakian Recent works (New York: Marlborough Gallery, 1982); Frank O'Hara, Art Chronicles: 1954-1966 (NY: George Braziller, 1975); Frank O'Hara, Nakian (Garden City: Doubleday for The Museum of Modern Art, 1966); Reuben Nakian Sculpture & Drawings (Milwaukee, WI: Milwaukee Art Museum, 1985); Reuben Nakian Recent Works (NY: Marlborough Gallery, 1982); Reuben Nakian Sculpture and Drawings (Los Angeles, CA: Felix Landau Gallery, 1967); Reuben Nakian Immortals of Antiquity, Sculpture, Drawings, Graphics (Troy, MI: Belian Art Center Gallery of Fine Arts, 1986); Rubin, Ida E. (ed.) & Jacqueline Moss (text), Sculpture 76: An Outdoor Exhibition of Sculpture By Fifteen Living American Artists: Claes Oldenbourg, George Rickey, Forrest Myers, James Rosati, Reuben Nakian, Richard Fleischner, Lila Katzen, Tony Smith, Alexander Calder, Athena Tacha, Willem De Kooning, Richard Serra, George Segal, Charles Ginnever, Kuehn (Greenwich, Connecticut: Greenwich Arts Council, 1976); Klaus Kertess, Forming (Southampton NY: Parrish Art Museum, 1984. Catalogue of 26 works by twelve twentieth-century American sculptors (Lynda Benglis, Louise Bourgeois, John Chamberlain, Edward Finnegan, Mary Frank, Raoul Hague, Gaston Lachaise, Elie Nadelman, Reuben Nakian, Tom Otterness, Alan Saret and Joel Shapiro). Foreword by Trudy C. Kramer; essay, "Forming: Another View of Twentieth-Century American Sculpture" by Klaus Kertess).
Reuben Nakian (American, 1897-1986), Leda and the Swan. Ink & brush drawing, c. 1975. Nakian is known as well for his sculpture. An important modernist sculptor who favored mythological themes, his work was featured in a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 1966. Image size: 420x305mm. Price: SOLD.
Reuben Nakian (American, 1897-1986), Europa and the Bull with Cupid. Ink & brush drawing, 1959-1960. Frank O'Hara's Museum of Modern Art exhibition catalogue illustrates 4 of the Europa series drawings on p. 23, one of which also includeds Cupid. O'Hara also includes photographs of two of the Europa sculptures on p. 13. Nakian is known as well for his sculpture. An important modernist sculptor who favored mythological themes, his work was featured in a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 1966. Drawn on a thin white sheet and later folded (though not quite so prominent a fold as appears in our photograph). Signed lower right with the brush. Image size: 225x192mm. Price: $2500.
Reuben Nakian (American, 1897-1986), Leda and the Swan. Watercolor, c. 1975-1982. Signed lower left with the brush. See Metger 1998 p. 69 for a similar ink and wash drawing. Frank O'Hara's Museum of Modern Art exhibition catalogue lists 5 of the Leda series drawings on p. 58 (numbers 127-131 in the exhibition and illustrtaes six of the Leda sculptureson pages 21, 28, and 30. Nordland illustrates 6 of the Leda sculptores dating from 1977-1980 and a 1982 ink and wash drawing. Nakian is known as well for his sculpture. An important modernist sculptor who favored mythological themes, his work was featured in a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 1966 and a touring show that ended at the Corcoran Gallery in 1989. Image size: 223x304mm. Price: $3500.
Reuben Nakian (American, 1897-1986), Leda and the Swan. Watercolor, c. 1975-1982. Signed lower left with the brush. See Metger 1998 p. 69 for a similar ink and wash drawing. Frank O'Hara's Museum of Modern Art exhibition catalogue lists 5 of the Leda series drawings on p. 58 (numbers 127-131 in the exhibition and illustrtaes six of the Leda sculptureson pages 21, 28, and 30. Nordland illustrates 6 of the Leda sculptores dating from 1977-1980 and a 1982 ink and wash drawing. Nakian is known as well for his sculpture. An important modernist sculptor who favored mythological themes, his work was featured in a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 1966 and a touring show that ended at the Corcoran Gallery in 1989. Image size: 227x303mm. Price: $3500.

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