Elie Nadelman

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About this artist

Elie Nadelman was a successful sculptor working in an original and highly influential modernist style. He received a high school education in Warsaw and briefly attended the art academy there before beginning a year’s service in the Russian Imperial Army in 1900. He then returned to the academy for a year. In 1904 he spent six months in Munich before settling in Paris, where he remained until 1914. He briefly drew at the Atelier Colarossi. In Paris Nadelman pursued theoretical studies of form and evolved a greatly simplified style of sculpture inspired by Renaissance, classical, and archaic models. While in Paris he was a prominent figure in the most avant-garde circles. He is thought to have influenced Picasso’s development of analytical cubism in 1909. An exhibition in a gallery in London in 1911 won Nadelman the patronage of Helena Rubenstein and the wide exposure of his works in her beauty establishments.

Unable to return to Russia to serve in the Imperial Army at the outbreak of the First World War, he moved to New York, where he lived until 1929. Exhibitions at the "291" gallery in late 1915-early 1916 and at Scott & Fowles Gallery in 1917 launched his successful American career. He received numerous private commissions for portraits and decorative work. His satiric figures in plaster and wood were not as well received. His marriage in 1920 to a wealthy widow enabled his purchase of an estate in Riverdale, New York, where he established a studio. The couple lived a fashionable and extravagant life in their mansion in New York. They also amassed an early collection of American folk art. The financial crash of 1929 brought bankruptcy upon them. Nadelman at first sought architectural commissions. Having removed to the estate in Riverdale, he worked primarily in ceramics during the early 1930s and in plaster after 1935, modeling mainly small classical figures.

New York, Museum of Modern Art, and others, The Sculpture of Elie Nadelman, exh. cat., 1948, with text by Lincoln Kirstein, bibliography by Bernard Karpel § Athena T. Spear, "Elie Nadelman’s Early Heads (1905-1911)," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 28 (Spring 1971): 20122 § Lincoln Kirstein, Elie Nadelman (New York: Eakins Press, 1973), with statements by the artist, catalogue raisonné, bibliography, list of exhibitions compiled by Ellen Grand § New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Washington, D.C., Smithsonian Institution, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, The Sculpture and Drawings of Elie Nadelman, 1882-1946, exh. cat., 1975, with text by John I. H. Baur, chronology by Hayden Herrera § I. E. Ouvaroff, "Homage to Elie Nadelman," Yale Literary Magazine 150, no. 3 (1983): 1-6,13-25, with quotes by the artist.