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Robert Natkin remembered — Blue Heron Fine Art Blog

Robert Natkin remembered

by Jim Puzinas on April 29, 2010

American artist Robert Natkin  died last week, and with him passes a legacy of  creating some of the most innovative forms of color abstraction. Utilizing bold post impressionist colors, Natkin produced several series of works including the Apollo Series of the 1960s.  According to several sources on the artist, these works, with vertical stripes alternating between thick and thin, decorative and textured, are cheerful and light, invoking the lyricism of Apollo, the Greek god of poetry and light. 

Although Natkin produced other series during his long career such as Steps and Grids, Field Mouse, and Intimate Lighting, the Apollo series remains  my favorite period for this artist.  It is for this reason that I choose to commemorate his life and share with you below an early and small work by Natkin from his Apollo period. 


Robert Natkin, "Abstract, Apollo Series",dated 1962, Oil on silk. 16 1/2" x 11"

This painting highlights the creativity which marked Natkin’s career.  Painted on a stretched silk fabric, Natkin captures the surface texture of a theater curtain, a subject which held fascincation with him from his childhood days in Chicago.  Natkin loved the interplay of the light emanating from behind the curtain before it was lifted to start the show. Painted in small scale this painting captures his youthful anticipation of the activity about to be unveiled.  Although most of Natkin’s work is large scale, it is the intimacy of this work and its unique medium that contribute to make this a timeless favorite.

Natkin’s work is in various collections including the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), the Guggenheim, the Sculpture Garden of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the the Whitney.  Natkin  was part of the Whitney Museum exhibit titled “Americans Under 35″ held in 1960.


The obituary from the New York Times as it appeared today is reproduced below.

Robert Natkin, Abstract Painter, Is Dead at 79

Published: April 27, 2010

Robert Natkin, a painter who rose to prominence in the late 1960s and 1970s with work that blended Abstraction with Post-Impressionist colors, died on April 20 in Danbury, Conn. He was 79 and lived in Redding, Conn.

The cause was a bacterial blood infection that developed during a hospital stay after a fall, said his wife, Judith Dolnick.

Mr. Natkin layered bright acrylic colors and forms on large-scale canvases, exuding the playfulness of Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky with the palettes of Henri Matisse and Pierre Bonnard.

He used cloths and netting as stencils to achieve textures described by John Russell of The New York Times in 1978 as having a “worked-over look that suggests that the painting has been traversed over and over by a very small truck that has just had its tires retreaded.”

His paintings are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.  For more Click Here!

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