Patrick Nagel

Patrick Nagel 1945-1984

Karl Bornstein of Mirage Editions described Patrick Nagel as "an elegant, stylish man with the weirdest sense of humor I had ever encountered."

Playboy's Hugh Hefner called him "generous almost to a fault, often donating paintings to his models or to editors who expressed admiration for his work."

Elena Millie, who heads the Library of Congress poster collection, said that Nagel "handled colors with rare originality and freedom" and that he "created on of the most successful paintings and graphics series to appear in the last two decades."

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.

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 became the number one album in the world.

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. Starting from a photograph, he would create a simplified drawing, the translate the drawing to a painting -- always "simplifying, working to get more across with fewer elements," note Elena Millie. Bold, dark lines shape perspective out of flat, cool colors and stark white spaces; the result is what some have described as "fantasy realism."

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.

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, but his art lives on. In 1986, a retrospective book on his art was published by van der Marck Editions, and sold nearly 240,000 copies in hardcover in just one year. The book has also been translated to Japanese and French editions.

Patrick Nagel Gallery