Louise Nevelson stamps issued by U.S. Postal Service
April 6, 2000
On April 6, 2000, the United States Postal Service issued five stamps honoring and depicting the work of sculptor Louise Nevelson. The stamps were formally dedicated as part of the Postage Stamp Mega Event in New York City. Postal Service Vice President Anita Bizzotto said that Nevelson had "left an indelible impression on this country" and that it was "not only her artistic creation, but her spirit of perseverance and determination" that the stamps were meant to honor.
Born in 1899 in Ukraine, she came to the United States with her family in 1905, and settled in Maine. After excelling in her high school art classes, Nevelson married and moved in 1920 to New York. In 1928, she began studying at the Art Students League. Separating from her husband in 1931, Nevelson traveled to study in Germany and around Europe, returning in 1932 to New York where she worked on a mural project with Diego Rivera.
After her work was shown in the Young Sculptors exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum in 1935, Nevelson earned her first solo gallery show in 1941. Although she sold no works from this show or three subsequent shows, they garnered positive reviews and helped establish Nevelson as a presence in the art world. In the 1950s, Nevelson began studying Mayan art. Her subsequent work integrated elements of Mayan art with dream imagery, and themes of marriage, royalty, and death.
Although she was influenced by cubism and modernism, and created etchings and terra cotta sculptures, Nevelson is best known for her wall sculptures. She created the first of these in 1958, with a work called Sky Cathedral. Composed of stacked boxes enclosing found architectural fragments, the work reversed the usual relationship between sculpture and viewer. Rather than the viewer walking around the sculpture, Nevelson's wall sculptures surrounded the viewer with an environment of the artist's creation.
With the success of Sky Cathedral, Nevelson entered a period of critical and public acclaim, in which many of her works were sold to museums and she received commissions from a range of institutions. Among her commissions were projects for synagogues, a church, the federal courthouse in Philadelphia, and for the cities of Scottsdale, Arizona, and New York. During this period, Nevelson was also active in artists' organizations, becoming president of National Artists Equity (1965), vice president of the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors (1965), and vice president of the International Association of Artists (1966). In 1979, Nevelson was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Among her most important works are Atmosphere and Environment XIII: Windows to the West (1973), and Dawn's Wedding Feast (1959). The Whitney Museum in New York now holds the largest collection of her works. Nevelson died in 1988.
To learn more about Louise Nevelson, visit Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia.
See also: This Week in History for September 22, 1941, "First solo show for sculptor Louise Nevelson"; Jewish Women On the Map - Louise Nevelson Plaza, the Nierendorf Gallery and "Sky Landscape"; Jewish Women Artists.