Nicholas P. Brigante was one of the earliest and foremost modernists in Los Angeles. Although he used a variety of mediums, he worked primarily with watercolor or ink. Brigante studied at the Art Students League of Los Angeles in 1913 with Rex Slinkard (1887-1918), who became his close friend and mentor. Slinkard encouraged him in his interest in classical art, Chinese landscape painting, and oriental philosophy, all of which were to help determine the spirit of Brigante’s art.
Brigante fought in World War I and on his return to Los Angeles became an active, independent artist. From 1923 to 1924 he undertook his only major excursion to the East Coast, living in New York and immersing himself in modernist circles. During the 1930s he produced several figurative series based on the theme of workers and the West; interiors with nudes; and, for a proposed federally sponsored project, a nine-panel mural on the struggle of mankind (LACMA; q.v.). Although during the 1940s he composed allegorical and figurative scenes inspired by automatic drawing, Brigante increasingly moved from figuration toward a spiritual abstraction based on his response to nature.
Around 1957 he began the series Cloud Lands of Abstraction, in which he combined the refined calligraphy of his automatic drawings with atmospheric washes suggested by Southern Song-period Chinese painting. After the Los Angeles Art Association gave him a retrospective exhibition in 1963, Brigante added a new element to his art, brilliant color, and turned to oils. He continued to create abstracted imagery inspired by his personal response to nature, working on an ever-increasing scale and often utilizing a multiple-panel format. His works continued to appear in exhibitions of contemporary art as well as in historical surveys, and Brigante was given solo exhibitions by Loyola, Marymount University, Los Angeles, in 1973 and the Long Beach Art Association in 1975.
Archiv. Am. Art, Nick Brigante Papers § Los Angeles, Stendahl Galleries, Nicholas Brigante, exh. cat., 1937, with foreword by Arthur Millier and essay by Earl L. Stendahi § John Alan Walker, "Nick Brigante," Fine Art Source Material Newsletter 1 (April 1971): 73-88 § Joseph E. Young, Nicholas Brigante: An Elegant Timelessness," Art News 74 (January 1975): 44-46 § Nicholas Brigante (Los Angeles: Privately printed by American Art Review Press, 1975), with reprints of major early solo exhibition catalogues and Young’s 1975 article, chronological list of exhibitions, bibliography.