b. 1899, Kiev; d. 1988, New York City
Louise Nevelson was born Louise Berliawsky on September
23, 1899, in Kiev, Russia. By 1905, her family had emigrated to the United
States and settled in Rockland, Maine. In 1920, she married Charles
Nevelson and moved to New York. At this time, she studied visual and
performing arts, including dramatics, with Frederick Kiesler. Nevelson
enrolled at the Art Students League in 1928 and also studied with Hilla
Rebay. During this period, she was introduced to the work of
and Pablo Picasso. In 1931, while traveling in Europe, she briefly
attended Hans Hofmann’s
school in Munich. Nevelson returned to New York in 1932 and assisted Diego
Rivera on murals he was executing under the WPA Federal Art Project.
Shortly thereafter, in the early 1930s, she turned to sculpture. Between
1933 and 1936, Nevelson’s work was included in numerous group exhibitions
in New York, and in 1937 she joined the WPA as a teacher for the
Educational Alliance School of Art.
Nevelson’s first solo show took place in 1941 at the
Nierendorf Gallery in New York. In 1943, she began her Farm
assemblages, in which pieces of wood and found objects were incorporated.
She studied etching with Stanley William Hayter at his Atelier 17 in New
York in 1947, and in 1949–50 worked in marble and terra-cotta and executed
her totemic Game Figures. Nevelson showed in 1953 and 1955 at the
Grand Central Moderns Gallery in New York. In 1957, she made her first
reliefs in shadow boxes as well as her first wall. Two years later,
Nevelson participated in her first important museum exhibition, Sixteen
Americans at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Martha
Jackson Gallery gave her a solo show. She was included in the Venice
Biennale in 1962.
Nevelson was elected president of National Artists
Equity in 1965 and the following year she became vice-president of the
International Association of Artists. Her first major museum retrospective
took place in 1967 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
Princeton University commissioned Nevelson to create a monumental outdoor
steel sculpture in 1969, the same year the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston,
gave her a solo exhibition. Other Nevelson shows took place in 1970 at the
Whitney Museum of American Art and in 1973 at the Walker Art Center in