Louise Nevelson


Louise Nevelson (1899-1988) stands as one of the most important artists of the 20th century. She is renowned for her monochromatic sculptural wooden constructions.

However it is important to emphasize that Nevelson toiled and experimented for nearly 30 years before arriving at her signature style in the late 1950's, which led to commercial and critical success - on a level unheard of for a woman in America at the time. 

In recent years there has been an increase in scholarship and collector interest in Nevelson's early work, as she was an early adopter of modernism in the US. This drawing is a fine example from this era. 

After Nevelson divorced in 1931, she was free to finally devote herself to art-making. She studied at the Art Students League in New York and made several formative trips to Europe where she began studying with Hans Hoffmann.  Back in New York, she worked briefly for the Works Progress Administration (and Diego Rivera), where she met Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and befriended other "downtown" New York artists.

As evidence of the growing interest and importance of her early work,  in 2018 the Whitney Museum presented "The Face and the Moon" which explored Nevelson's prints and drawings from the first three decades of her career. 

"Male Model Posing" is a superb example of one of her drawings from the 1930's. Here we see the tension between stylization and accurate depiction. Nevelson's drawings tend to lean towards the former, frequently referencing Matisse. While the body of this young man is reduced to the most simple shapes, his face demonstrates that this is a specific person being depicted. The model is handsome and young but is portrayed with an ambiguous expression, perhaps simply pensive. Contrast this image to drawings of women by Nevelson, such as this one, where the women's faces are reduced to stylized masks. 

While the male nude is a subject that has been depicted throughout art history, it should be acknowledged that it was still unconventional (if not "improper") for a woman to depict a nearly naked man in the 1930's. Needless to say, this is another reminder of how Nevelson marched to the beat of her own drummer, but was also a fearless innovator and exceptional artist. 

Questions about this piece? Contact us or call +1.416.704.1720. Visit our Toronto gallery on Thursdays or by appointment.

Untitled "Male Model Posing"

USA, circa 1930s

Signed in ink by the artist in lower right corner 

Pen and ink on tan wove paper

16.5"H 11"W (work)

25"H 19"W (framed)


Very good condition

Provenance: This drawing is from the private collection of Louise Nevelson's friend Albert Argentieri. They lived near each other in New York City.  Argentieri would photograph Nevelson and her sculptures. He also searched nearby abandoned buildings for wooden pieces to be used in her sculptures. 

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