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 Robert Natkin  (1930 - 2010)

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Lived/Active: Illinois/New York      Known for: expressionist abstract painting

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Ad Code: 3
Robert Natkin
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A painter of intensely colorful abstraction, Robert Natkin does work that often runs in series including Apollo Series of the 1960s.  These works, with vertical stripes alternating between thick and thin, decorative and textured, are cheerful and light, invoking the lyricism of Apollo, the Greek god of poetry and light.

Other series are titled Steps and Grids, Field Mouse, and Intimate Lighting.  His painting is inspired by the color used by Henri Matisse, and Pierre Bonnard, and the Cubism of Paul Klee.

Natkin was born in Chicago and graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1952. He married painter Judith Dolnick, and they lived in Chicago where Natkin and a friend opened the Wells Street Gallery to give young Chicago artists a chance to market their artwork.  The gallery operated from 1957 to 1959.

He was part of the Whitney Museum exhibit titled "Americans Under 35", and during the late 1950s held one-man shows in Los Angeles, Boston, and Philadelphia.

Natkin has been a Ford Foundation artist-in-residence, teaching at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.

Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Robert Natkin was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1931; his father was a rag dealer and so bleak was the Chicago neighborhood in which he was born that it left him with a lasting sense of esthetic deprivation, a fact that probably accounts for the almost pretty profusion of colors in his present canvases.  He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he was most influenced by the Post-Impressionist collection.

In the early 1930s he and his wife, Judith Dolnick, also a painter, went to New York, where he began to achieve modest success.  His style derives from both decorative Oriental and primitive art and illusionist painting. They lived in Chicago where Natkin and a friend opened a gallery to give young Chicago artists a chance to market their artwork. The gallery remained open from 1957 to 1959.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources include:
Time Magazine, August 1, 1969
From the internet,

Biography from LewAllen Galleries:
Robert Natkin is an American abstract painter, who has been working since the early 1950s to create lyrical paintings, which are represented in the permanent collections of major museums as well as in corporate and private collections and galleries in the USA, Europe and Japan.

In his book on art movements of the second half of the twentieth century, published in 1999 and entitled ArtToday, Edward Lucie-Smith describes Natkin’s work as “the ultimate development” in that part of American Art Modernism that is referred to as color abstraction.  He writes of Natkin’s paintings that “sumptuous colour orchestration can probably be carried no further” and “as exercises of painterly virtuosity they are unsurpassed.”

In a 1991 book entitled The Many Masks of Modern Art, Theodore F. Wolff notes that Natkin is far from being “a formal purist, a designer and architect of abstract compositions intended to stand strictly on their own.”  Wolff describes Natkin’s paintings as “subtle evocations of the gentler, more ineffable levels and dimensions of our physical and spiritual universe” and sums up their impact by calling the artist “a visual poet whose apparently abstract images actually exist to enchant us with intimations and evocations of things we can sense but never quite see.”

Natkin’s style has evolved through several series of paintings, sometimes revisited. As influences that have affected his work he names American jazz vocalists such as Nina Simone and Billie Holliday as well as Post-Impressionist, Cubist and Abstract Expressionist painters.

Born in Chicago in 1930, Natkin encountered Abstract Expressionism in 1949 through an article in Life magazine.  At that time a student at the Art Institute of Chicago, he later lived briefly in New York, where he felt deeply influenced by Willem de Kooning’s paintings.

Returning to Chicago, he became closely associated with other Chicago artists, including his future wife, Judith Dolnick, and opened a gallery in which their work was exhibited in the late 1950s.  These artists, including Natkin, were prominent in Chicago’s 1957 Momentum exhibition; and in 1960 Natkin was included in the Young America exhibition at the Whitney Museum in New York.

Among the museums now holding his art in their collections are  the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Guggenheim, as well as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, NY, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the San Francisco Museum of Art, to name only a few in this country; plus the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, Australia.

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