Nancy Graves (American, 1940-1995)

Nancy Graves, Agualine, 1980, Oil on Canvas, Collection of Robert and Jane Meyerhoff, 2010.14.1 


Nancy Graves was an American sculptor, painter, and printmaker recognized for her ability to visually synthesize art and science.  She was the first woman to receive a solo retrospective at the Whitney Museum (Wikipedia: Nancy Graves). 

Graves’s personal aesthetic emerged in the later 1960s in the form of realistic life-size sculptures of camels. These works were rooted in her childhood memories of the animals preserved by taxidermists in the Natural History section of the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts and in the idioms of Abstract Expressionism taught at the Yale University School of Art where she was a student in the early 1960s. The interplay between the replication of nature and the formal values of abstract art was to inform her work throughout her life (Source:  Nancy Graves Foundation)

A recent acquisition of the National Gallery of Art, Agualine “builds on a lexicon of images that Graves developed through the 1970s but pushes those literal references to the very edge of abstraction…[and] with its gestural exuberance, loud color, and dispersed composition, can be seen as a contemporary successor to the National Gallery’s great painting by Wassily Kandinsky,Improvisation 31 (Sea Battle), 1913, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund” (National Gallery of Art). 


(Reference:  The Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Collection: 1945 to 1995. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1996: no. 29)