Nevelson, Louise

from The New Book of Knowledge®

ART HISTORY ON DEMAND > Artists

When she was a child, Louise Nevelson knew she wanted to be a sculptor, and she worked toward that goal until she achieved it. She was born Louise Berliawsky on September 23, 1900, in Kiev, Russia. In 1905 she and her family moved to Rockland, Maine. After graduating from high school, she married Charles Nevelson and moved to New York City, where she lived the rest of her life.

Nevelson traveled widely and studied at the Art Students League in New York City. She wrote poetry, performed in plays, and studied philosophy and religion. None of these activities interfered with her work as a sculptor, yet many years passed before she earned the reputation that she deserved.

During the mid-1950's, she began to gather together old wooden spoons, spindles, parts of furniture, sticks, and other everyday wooden objects. With these Nevelson created her famous assemblages, which she framed within boxlike compartments of varying sizes. She then painted each assemblage flat black or sometimes flat white or gold. Finally, by piling boxes of the same color against the wall, she produced gigantic and strikingly beautiful relief sculptures unlike anything other artists had ever done. She had created order out of disorder, and unity and visual beauty out of cast-aside junk. Pictures of assemblages by Nevelson can be found in Sculpture and United States, Art and Architecture of the.

Later in her career, Nevelson also produced plastic and metal sculptures. These have been shown in major museum collections. In addition, many of her large-scale works have been installed in public locations both in the United States and abroad. One of her best-known works is the Chapel of the Good Shepherd (1977) in St. Peter's Lutheran Church in New York City. In 1978, as a tribute to her, a public square on New York City's Wall Street was named the Nevelson Square. She died on April 17, 1988, in New York City.

Howard E. Wooden
Director Emeritus
The Wichita Art Museum

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