Louise Nevelson - The Farnsworth Collection

by Suzette Lane McAvoy




1 Unpublished manuscript signed and dated by the artist; Farnsworth Museum exhibition files.

2 ''Louise Nevelson Succumbs at 88: Artist Raised in Rockland," The Courier-Gazette, April 19, 1988, pp. 1-2.

3 Nevelson's actual birthdate is unclear, later in life she chose September 23, 1899; for further discussion of Nevelson's family history and emigration to America, see Laurie Lisle, Nevelson: A Passionate Life (New York: Summit Books, 1990), pp. 13-22.

4 Diana MacKown, Dawns + Dusks: Louise Nevelson, Taped Conversations with Diana MacKown (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976), p.14.

5 Robert Hughes, "Sculpture's Queen Bee," Time, January 2, 1981, p. 69.

6 On one occasion when he was ill, Nevelson is said to have brought Miller a bunch of grapes. In a letter thanking her for the "magnificent grapes," Miller wrote, "I thought you remembered, perhaps, my admiration for their form in nature... the ideal fulness [ sic], both in detail and in mass, a sculptural form in the art of painting." Kenneth Hayes Miller to Louise Nevelson, Louise Nevelson Papers: Archives of American Art, as cited in Lisle, p. 72.

7 Kimon Nicolaides, The Natural Way to Draw (Boston: Houton Mifflin Company, 1941), pp. 15, 18.

8 Gene Baro, Nevelson: The Prints (New York: Pace Editions, 1974), pp. 10-11.

9 Louise Nevelson, "Nevelson on Nevelson," ART news, November 1972, p. 68.

10 Laurie Wilson, "Louise Nevelson, Iconography and Sources,"Ph.D. diss., City University of New York, 1978, p. 63.

11 Nevelson's family agreed to finance her trip to Germany and to look after Mike while she was away; accordingly she accompanied Mike
Nevelson back to Rockland before her departure. Lisle, pp. 76-78. Although Maine Meadows, Old Country Road is undated, a very similar work in the Farnsworth collection, View of Rockland Meadows, is dated 1931.

12 Stars reappear in a number of Nevelson's sculptures and painted self-portraits from the 1940s. In 1977, Nevelson said, "[the star] could be a crown, five points, I've always felt like a star." Wilson, p. 167.

13 Lisle states that during Nevelson's three month stay in Munich, Hofmann "turned over most of the teaching to an assistant and visited the school no more than once a week." Lisle, p. 80. Nevelson studied with Hofmann for another three months at the Art Students League in October-November 1932 and March 1933. Wilson, p. 65, footnote 3.

14 Nevelson's devotion to her art during the early 1930s contributed to the eventual disintegration of her marriage. Although they never again lived together after her move to 1237 York Avenue in late 1932, the couple did not legally divorce until 1941. Lisle, pp. 89-9l.

15 The other is New York City off 30th Street, undated, in the Farnsworth collection.

16 Arthur Robert Guagliami, "Assemblage Art: Origins and Sources," Ph.D. diss., Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, 1990, p. 91.

17 In Dawns + Dusks, Nevelson says, "I remember going to the library, I couldn't have been more than nine... The librarian asked me what I was going to be, and of course I said, 'I'm going to be an artist.' 'No,' I added, 'I want to be a sculptor. I don't want color to help me.' " MacKown, p. 14.

18 Carol Diehl, "Breaking the Rules," Arts & Antiques, April 1988, p.74.

19 Many of these pieces were produced at the WPA-supported sculpture workshop on 39th Street, run by Louis Basky and his apprentice Alexander Tatti. Tatti is credited with developing 'tattistone,' a self-hardening material which Nevelson frequently used in her early sculptures. For further discussion see Wilson, p. 73.

20 Although Woman in Red Scarf is undated, similar works place it in late 1947-48. A number of traumatic events in Nevelson's personal life around this time may explain her anguished self-portrait: in October 1946, her father died suddenly of heart failure; in June 1947, her son Mike who had been living with her in New York, left under strained relations to return to Rockland; and in October 1947, her dealer and close friend Karl Nierendorf died unexpectedly. Lisle, pp. 156-158.

21 For discussion of totemic form in Nevelson's art, see Wilson, pp. 196-203.

22 Ibid., p. 55.

23 Both Wilson and Lisle cite Mike Nevelson's account of his mother visiting him at school carrying a bag containing a block of wood on which she was carving a primitive figure; Lisle places the event in 1936, Wilson in 1937. Lisle, pp. 114-15; Wilson p. 121, footnote l.

24 Una Johnson, Louise Nevelson: Prints and Drawings: 1953-1966 (New York: The Brooklyn Museum, 1967), p. 9.

25 For discussion of this exhibition see Wilson, pp. 11-17 and 168-173.

26 Glimcher, pp. 41-42.

27 MacKown, p. 67.

28 Hilton Kramer, "The Sculpture of Louise Nevelson," Arts, June 1958, pp. 26-29, as cited in Lisle, p. 21l.

29 MacKown, p. 138.

30 John Canaday, "Art: Sculpture by Louise Nevelson," New York Times, November 21, 1964, as cited in Lisle, p. 244.

31 Willy Eisenhart, The Art of Nevelson at the Farnsworth (Rockland Maine: Farnsworth Museum, 1985), n.p.

32 ''Nevelson Designs Orfeo," Ninth Season Program (St. Louis, Missouri: Opera Theatre of St. Louis, 1984), p. 47.

33 This innovative school was established by actress Princess Norina Matchabelli and the well-known set designer Frederic Kiesler. For discussion of the school and Kiesler's influence on Nevelson's art, see Wilson, pp. 129-136.

34 Willy Rotzler, Constructive Concepts: A History of Constructive Art from Cubism to the Present (Zurich: ABC Edition, 1977), pp. 35-36 and 50-51.

35 Glimcher, p. 26.


About the author

Suzette Lane McAvoy was curator of the Farnsworth Art Museum at the time of writing of this essay.


Resource Library editor's note:

The above article was reprinted, without accompanying illustrations, in Resource Library on April 24, 2006 with the permission of the Farnsworth Art Museum and the author. This text was written in conjunction with an exhibition celebrating the opening of the Nevelson-Berliawsky Gallery of Twentieth Century Art held in 1994 at the Farnsworth Art Museum.

If you have questions or comments regarding the article, please contact the Farnsworth Art Museum directly through either this phone number or web address:

Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to Helen Fisher, Curator of the Farnsworth Art Museum for her help concerning permissions for reprinting the above text.

This article was also previously published in American Art Review, Volume VI, Number 5, October-November 1994.


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Louise Nevelson: Selections from the Farnsworth Art Museum (8/30/04)


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