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 Patrick Nagel  (1945 - 1984)

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Lived/Active: California/Ohio / Germany      Known for: art deco seductive female figure, advertising art, illustration, posters

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Ad Code: 2
Patrick Nagel
from Auction House Records.
Untitled (Woman with Horse)
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from Robert Crook:

Patrick Nagel was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1945, but was brought up in the Los Angeles area where he spent most of his life.  He attended and taught at Pasadena's Art Center School of Design, then Chouinard Art Institute, and in 1969 received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from California State University at Fullerton.

Nagel initially put his talents to work as a freelance artist, accepting commissions from major corporations and magazines, including IBM, ITT, United Artists, MGM, Universal Studios, Playboy, Architectural Digest, Rolling Stone, Oui, and Harpers.

He was most known for his "femme fatale":  While elegant and alluring, Nagel's women were also stand-offish and independent.  Beginning in 1976, Nagel began contributing regularly to Playboy, which extended the exposure and popularity of "the Nagel Woman."

In 1978, he created his first poster image for Mirage Editions.  Together with Mirage, his work became the modern day counterpart to the "posterists" who had proceeded him such as Lautrec, Mucha, Cassandre, and Holwein.

His work reflected and synthesized a variety of artistic traditions. His work bore characteristics of old Japanese woodblock print and modern-day manga, as well as European aesthetics developed by the Post- Impressionists and Pre-Raphaelites. He created a popular "art deco" style that affected fashion and decorative arts in the 1980s.

Nagel's posters have been collected by such prestigious institutions as the Library of Congress, the Oakland Museum, and the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts at U.C.L.A.  Permanent collections of his work are housed at the Bibliotheque des Arts Decoratifs and the Smithsonian Institution.  He died of a heart attack in 1984 at the age of 38.

Currently, there is no Patrick Nagel catalog raisonne.  The most comprehensive book on his work is The Art of Patrick Nagel (Van Der Merk 1985).

Biography from SIGFine Art-Dorog Gallery:
Nagel's working method was to start with a photograph and work down, always simplifying and removing elements which he felt were unnecessary.  The resulting image would look flat, but emphasized those elements which he felt were most important.

According to Elena G. Millie, curator of the poster collection at the Library of Congress: "Like some of the old print masters (Toulouse-Lautrec and Bonnard, for example), Nagel was influenced by the Japanese woodblock print, with figures silhouetted against a neutral background, with strong areas of black and white, and with bold line and unusual angles of view. He handled colors with rare originality and freedom; he forced perspective from flat, two-dimensional images; and he kept simplifying, working to get more across with fewer elements.  His simple and precise imagery is also reminiscent of the art-deco style of the 1920s and 1930s- its sharp linear treatment, geometric simplicity, and stylization of form yield images that are formal yet decorative."

Nagel's figures generally have black hair, bright white skin, full-lipped mouths, and the distinctive Nagel eyes, which are often squared off in the later works.  Because of the intense stylization and reduction of facial features into clean lines, generally the figures resemble each other, though Nagel worked with many models, including Playboy Playmates Cathy St. George, Tracy Vaccaro and Shannon Tweed.

Nagel also painted several celebrity portraits including those of Joan Collins (whose portrait was subsequently released as a limited edition print) and Joanna Cassidy.  Nagel also painted men, though only one was ever released as a fine art print while Nagel was alive.

He had and continues to have a devoted following of collectors.  Nagel's artwork strongly influenced the illustration and clip art of the late 1980s and illustrations of women strongly resembling those seen in Nagel's art were widely used in hair and nail salons and other beauty-oriented businesses.


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