Saturday, January 5, 2008

Art Icon: Patrick Nagel

I first became aquainted with Nagel in my early teens. I wasn't reading playboy (well, I may have snuck a few peeks to see Madonna) but I really discovered his work when he did the cover for Duran Duran's RIO cover. After that I was sucked in and I feel fortunate to have gone to a Nagel show in Sausalito where I begged my mom and dad to buy me one of the gallery silkscreen posters and have it framed for my bedroom. 20 years later, If I were rich I'd have a bigger collection but for now I'm happy with the few that I own. Tip: You can find some really good ones on EBAY.

Playboy Art Icon - 1945 - 1984

Patrick Nagel was born in Dayton, Ohio, but was brought up in the Los Angeles area, where he spent most of his life. He studied art at Chouinard Art Institute, and in 1969 received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from California State University at Fullerton.
Nagel first put his talents to work as a freelance artist; then in 1971, he joined ABC-TV where he produced television graphics for promotion and news broadcasts. After a year, he returned to freelance assignments, accepting commissions from major corporations and magazines, including IBM, ITT, United Artists, MGM, Universal Studios, Playboy, Architectural Digest, Rolling Stone, Oui, and Harpers. The bulk of his work he would end doing for Playboy Magazine.

Beginning in 1976, Nagel began contributing regularly to Playboy, which extended the exposure and popularity of "the Nagel Woman" to a huge and loyal audience. In 1978, he created his first poster image for Mirage Editions. He also painted the cover of rock group Duran Duran's Rio album, which later became a top selling album.

The feeling of Nagel's work is reminiscent of Japanese woodblock prints as well as of Art Deco styling, yet it is completely contemporary and universal in appeal. Some compare it to Edouard Manet's "Olympia". Starting from a photograph, he would create a simplified drawing, then translate the drawing to a painting -- always "simplifying, working to get more across with fewer elements," noted Elena Millie. Bold, dark lines shape perspective out of flat, cool colours and stark white spaces. In some ways it was similar to Norval Morrisseau's paintings.

During his lifetime, Nagel's work was exhibited in several one-man shows; his first exhibition of painting sold out within fifteen minutes. His posters have been collected by such prestigious institutions as the Library of Congress, the Oakland Museum, and the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts at U.C.L.A. Permanent collections of his work are housed at the Bibliotheque des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, and the Smithsonian Institution. The largest collection of his work belongs to Hugh Hefner and resides in the Playboy Mansion. Among the awards Nagel received were recognition by Communication Arts, Art Direction, and Graphis.

Patrick Nagel died of a heart attack in 1984 at the age of 38. He was heading home from exercising. He was known to smoke heavily, drink and eat a lot of fast food. There is also rumours of drug addiction.

-thanks to art history archive for this info!

November 18ths Nagel Inspired Scoop Neck T-shirt available online at

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