Louise Nevelson (1899 – 1988) was born in the Poltava Governorate in 1899. In 1905, Nevelson’s family (the Berliawsky family) emigrated to the United States, where Nevelson spent the remainder of her childhood being raised in Rockland, Maine. Nevelson painted watercolour interiors throughout school, graduating in 1918 to a job as a stenographer at a local law firm. Nevelson married Charles Nevelson in 1920 and the couple moved to New York City that year.
In 1929, Nevelson began her artistic studies under Kenneth Hayes Miller and Kimon Nicolaides at the Art Students League. In Munich, Nevelson studied with Hans Hoffman, before returning to New York with him and continuing to study under him at the Arts Students League. Nevelson’s first major project was her collaboration with Diego River in 1933 on River’s mural at the Rockefeller Plaza. The same year, Nevelson began studying sculpture, taking Chaim Gross’ classes at the Educational Alliance.
Whilst continuing to experiment with paint and lithography at various points over her career, Nevelson focused primarily on sculpture during the late 1930s and 1940s. He early works were sculpted from plaster, clay and tattistone. Nevelson started to exhibit her work in group shows, and in 1939 she began teaching mural painting as a member of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). In 1936, Nevelson won her first prize for sculpture at the A.C.A. Galleries in New York, holding her first solo exhibition at Nierendorf Gallery in 1941. Karl Nierendorf represented Nevelson until his death in 1947, during which time Nevelson exhibited a shoe shine box at the Museum of Modern Art, prompting an article about her in Art Digest in 1943. That same year, Nevelson exhibited in Peggy Guggenheim’s show Exhibition by 31 Women at the Art of This Century gallery in New York, and staged the exhibition The Clown as Centre of His World at the Norlyst Gallery in New York.
In 1955, Nevelson joined Colette Robert’s Grand Central Modern Gallery, where she held numerous solo shows. She exhibited some of her famed mid-century works: Bride of the Black Moon, First Personage and acclaimed exhibit Moon Garden + One. In 1960, Nevelson held her first European solo show at the Galerie Daniel Cordier in Paris. Later that year a collection of her work was included in the exhibit Sixteen Americans at the Museum of Modern Art. Her work was selected for the 31St Venice Biennale and Nevelson was elected president of Artists’ Equity, serving until 1964.
Nevelson completed a fellowship at Tamarind Lithography Workshop (renamed the Tamarind Institute) producing twenty-six lithographs over this time. Nevelson joined Pace Gallery in the fall of 1963, where she exhibited until her death. In 1967, the Whitney Museum hosted the first retrospective of Nevelson’s work, showing over one hundred pieces of her art. In 1969, Nevelson was awarded the Edward MacDowell Medal, and in 1973 the Walker Art Centre curated a major exhibition of her work which travelled until 1975.
Nevelson is included in numerous international collections, including at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Columbus Museum of Art; the Anita Shapolsky Gallery in New York; the Margot Gallery in Lake Worth, Florida and the Woodward Gallery in New York.