You know, when I sit to write these blogs, I consider myself insanely lucky! As I get to write and recall all of the inspirations that so make my world what it is. In continuing with my love of California abstract Expressionists, I bring to you today Nathan Oliveira. Thank you for letting me share my thoughts with you each day.
(Nathan Oliveira passed away on November 13, 2010.)
For more than 30 years, internationally recognized painter Nathan Oliveira occupied a serene studio nestled in the foothills above Stanford University, where he taught for decades. Spark visited Oliveira where he created some of his most famous works.
Oliveira is well-known as a major painter associated with a group of artists called the Bay Area Figurative School. Taking a cue from the abstract expressionist style that characterized East Coast painting in the postwar period, Oliveira and others used a thick, painterly style,
but used it to represent rough, abstracted figures and landscapes.
Over the last 20 years, Oliveira had intermittently worked on “The Windover,” a series of paintings named for a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. The canvases, which depict abstract forms recalling wings, were inspired by the red-tailed hawks living in the foothills that surround Oliveira’s studio.
In an effort to keep the series of nearly
20 paintings together as a group, Oliveira had been meeting with Stanford officials to create a quiet space somewhere in the foothills to house “The Windover” and be designed as a peaceful refuge where visitors can go to meditate and collect their thoughts.
Nathan Oliveira earned a B.A. in 1951 and an M.F.A. in 1952 from the California College of Arts and Crafts (now known as the California College of the Arts).
Oliveira received critical recognition early on in his career for emotionally charged paintings that are an attempt, in the artist’s words, to “make a spiritual contribution.”1 His main artistic preoccupation throughout his oeuvre has been the depiction of a solitary figure,
usually female, and often wraithlike, emerging from an atmospheric and
undefined space. In the early 1960s, Oliveira’s palette shifted and he began to incorporate more vibrant colors. His subject matter, however, remained the same. The influence of Northern European expressionism, such as Edvard Munch and Max Beckmann, with whom Oliveira
studied at Mills College, Oakland, in 1950, is evidenced in his work
as is the portraiture of Rembrandt and the attenuated female figurative sculptures of Giacommetti.
Oliveira’s graphic achievements have established him as a major figure in American printmaking. His innovative work in lithography and monotype has been compared to that of Goya, Picasso, Edvard Munch, and Eugène Carrière, and he has created procedural standards
that artists continue to follow today.2 In the 1980s, also Oliveira began