Friday, November 24, 2006

The Strong Confident Woman: Art for the people by Patrick Nagel

When Stagg and I were out seeing Dolt 45 play, we noticed a seriograph on the wall of the bar. In the 80's these prints were everywhere, restaurants, clubs, peoples home. I wondered aloud, who this artist was and their story. Stagg guessed they were probably passed away. I turned, rather surprised. Really? Why? And we discussed that we hadn't seen any new images, and it was possible drugs were involved. I said, I'm going to blog about him.

Patrik Nagel was one of the few artists to not only make it huge, but also to become part of pop culture and be truly loved yet, not held held in contempt by the court of public opinion. This is a fine accomplishment. He never made it to the age of forty.

His art assistant said Nagel used Payne's grey more than any other painter. Despite the day-glo trend colors in nightclubs and the ubiquitous punkers black leather jackets grey was the color of the 80's. I remember one Christmas, Mister Anchovy said all of his holiday presents had grey in them. I said to him, apparently your family thinks you're hip and urban. Patrick Nagel's paintings did use a lot of grey and the colours were controlled and distilled to enhance the overall impression that his women models were concrete, strong, assured and mysterious. There were professional women with glamour. Women we haven't seen as icons in two decades.

His paintings have been associated and as emulating with the Art Deco movement, but they have ties and style aligned with Warhol, Lichenstein, Tamara Lempicka, and Helmut Newman. Her hair was often androgynous, her hands lovely and gloved, sunglasses always hinted at her reserve and her mystery. She was public and her often strong aquiline nose another sign of androgynous equality to men, her forehead large her manicured looks like a masque. His paintings averaged about 4'x6'. Quite different than his posters.

I wonder what these women represented personally to the artist? He was a ranger who saw combat in Vietnam. I wonder if her strength and confidence was something he valued about women and their role in society being able to overcome the struggle to be part of society as equals and healthy? The largest collection of Nagels paintings are owned by Hugh Hefner and exhibited at the Playboy mansions. Nagel was a regular contributor to Playboy magazine and this is evidence of his accomplishment in mainsteam culture , as well as his record sales of a hardcover book and the sales of his posters. His popularity in the homes of the public puts him in the rare peer group of Warhol, Monet, Van Gogh, Lempicka, and Thomas Kinkade, and popular movie posters. He died after a celelbrity exercise event for the American Heart Foundation. He was found dead of a heart attack later that same day. Drug addiction, drinking and smoking may have been a contributing cause.

"I don't think I want to know these women too well. They never come out in the sunlight. They just stay up late and smoke and drink a lot." Patrick Nagel

"I simply knew when I saw those pictures that this was the artist I wanted to start my publishing company with. My idea was to create a series of limited-edition graphics unlike any done before, to create something that would be art, that would be hand printed by silk-screen, and that would fill a market niche between the very expensive limited-edition prints which were then going for $5,000 each and simple, inexpensive gallery poster art." Karl Bornstein

Barry Haun:
Patrick Nagel used more Payne's grey than any other painter ever.
He never wore short sleeves.
He loved women.
He especially loved women with strong noses.
He thought Pennies from Heaven was a great movie.
He could play the accordion. He said his mom bought anything from anybody, and there was this door-to-door accordion salesman...
He loved peanut M&Ms, chocolate shakes (not too thick), fried onions, and coffee.
He said that if I wanted to work for him I would have to learn to how to juggle. Why, I don't know, but now I can juggle.
He wanted to paint Jessica Lange's portrait. Cher's too.
He would stop work if he was out of Pepsi or coffee.
He thought exercise was stupid. For him, it turned out to be.

Notice the poster above the fireplace is done emulating the Nagel poster, a nod from the tv show Furturama.

Tributes to Patrick Nagel


Pickled Olives said...

Lovely Tribute. I can now put the name and story to the painings!!

mister anchovy said...

well, if he could play the accordion, he's OK in my books....

Candy Minx said...

Mr A,I knew you were going to say that. Isn't that a riot he played accordion, I found that so funny. Especially compared with the kind of tight controlled contempory style of his figures and paintings.

Yes, Pickled Olives, thats how I felt too, they were such a big part of Pop culture and I was curious...who was this guy?

* (asterisk) said...

I never knew the name but vaguely recognized the style: then I saw The Rio cover and all became clear! Cool artwork (even if some of it does look a bit too 80s!).

karaoke queen said...

Its always interesting to learn about something that you see everyday. I remember when that style was popular.

Dollface said...

I used to browse Barnes & Noble, and when I found a book with his art, I wanted it! I love the clean lines, the elegance, the illustrative quality - all of these combined to make cool, mysterious artwork.

Candy Minx said...

This guy was everywhere...and I became so curious didn't know anythin about him. My biggest surprise was that he actually paintied these and it sounds like they are oil paintings. I had assumed he was only silkscreening...not that I'm a snob or anything...

felix said...

I like those pieces. As an art illiterate, I am always surprised to see things I like from people who lived or live in my own time.

There was art after Vermeer. Great.

Thanks for the insights and introduction.

thehealingroom said...

The leading picture that you posted, (at the top of this post) Looks like you, Candy.

thehealingroom said...

should I switch my blog to beta?
pros and cons?

Wandering Coyote said...

As you know, I know nothing about art, but I did recognize the Duran Duran cover, I just didn't know whence it came. Thanks for educating me a little more.

Candy Minx said...

Felix, nice to see you! Glad to expose more art and how it's not too scary to as many people as possible.

Healing Room, thanks, he didn't usually paint blondes...and I suppose when I was younger I was influenced by his women and their style. As for's so far fantastic at speed! Posting seems quicker. But when it comes to logging in and making comments at others blogs, I've lost a lot of comments the last few days. So I would say, no. Plus, I have to log in twice now. But I like it as far as the actual blogging process goes.

Wandering Coyote, that Duran Durna album was huge wasn't it? I liked the Fururama reference, thought that was hilarious. It's easy to forget that art icons are peopel with very real lives too.

Amy Ruttan said...

I've always wondered about those prints. As a child of the eighties, I do remember alot of those pictures. I really like them, maybe because it's something tangible from my past, because I really enjoyed my childhood.

Anonymous said...

If you like the art of Patrick Nagel, please check out the new forum set up by some of his fans:

Rob Frankel said...

The first ever biography of Patrick Nagel, is now available!

Most of them either owned, or still own his art, especially if they were fans of Playboy magazine. They know his art; they just don't know his name.

Patrick Nagel took the 1980s by storm only to die suddenly at age 38. He gave the 1980s its look and even though more than two million American homes enjoyed his art, few people even knew his name.

The book is titled The Artist Who Loved Women: The Incredible Life & Work of Patrick Nagel, the Most Successful & Anonymous Artist of the 1980s , (ISBN 9786926859281) and is the only biography of Nagel's personal, professional and artistic evolution. Available at Amazon or