Elie Nadelman: The Fall & Rise Of One Of America’s Great Modern Artists


Elie Nadelman

February 20, 1882 – December 28, 1946

Location: Born In:  Warsaw, Poland. Died In: New York, USA

Elie Nadelman has been called the “Sculptor of Modern Life”. With his stylistic and modern sculptures of people and animals, he is one of the forefathers of modern art we know today. Like many artists before him, his work escalated in fame and price after his death in 1946.

Nadelman was born to Jewish parents in Warsaw, the capitol of Poland. He studied for a short time in Warsaw before visiting Munich, Germany, were he would become interested in Classical Antiquities at the museum Glyptothek, where many Roman and Greek sculptures can be seen.

He them move to Paris in 1910 and stayed there till 1914. He was apart of many exhibits  and had his first solo show in 1909. He also was apart of a group of like-minded artists,such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. “At a time when many dismissed classical art as outmoded and inimical to modernism, Nadelman daringly asserted its enduring validity as the ultimate standard of aesthetic and formal beauty.” said the RoGallery about Nadelman and his art.

The sculptures in his solo exhibit had full-length standing nudes and a series of plaster and bronze classical female heads, along with mannered Cubist drawings; the latter was purchased by Leo Stein, who had brought Picasso to Nadelman’s studio in 1908.

This is the the late 19th century home and art studio of Elie and his wife in Riverdale, NY.Fore more information on this building go here.

Nadelman would then move to the USA in 1927, where he would live for the rest of his life. Nadelman’s was not too impressed with the United States when he arrived after being helped to escape World War I. He described the US  as “a country of bluffers and snobs”. Soon, however, he became enthralled with the energy and creativity of American life. He married a wealthy heiress, Mrs. Viola Flannery, in 1920 . He and his wife started the Museum of Folk Arts in Riverdale, N.Y in 1925 and collected a vast collection of folk art. During that same time period, Nadelman’s style varied from Classical, decorative, and at times a new kind of sophisticated urban folk art.

This luxurious life style came to a sad close for Nadelman. Once the Great Depression hit, his wealth disappeared and people were no longer interested in his art. In 1930, he had his last solo exhibit and In 1935 many of his plaster figures and wood-carvings were destroyed by workmen sent to remodel his studio. Soon, he would no longer take any kind of commissions other than portraits. In 1937 the collection of the Museum of Folk Arts was sold to the New York Historical Society.
Nadelman would then pack away all his pre-1935 work in the attic and cellar of his home in Riverdale, NY and left it there to disintegrate. After his death, his sculpture “Man in the Open Air”, was restored and was brought to MOMA, New York. Since then, he has become of the most popular artists of his time and his sculptures are held in various museums and galleries.


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