Patrick Nagel was one of those rare breed of artists who gave form and new meaning to generations of artists to come. Though like most other artists of any era the main focus of Nagel’s art was the female form but in his work the female inhabited very rare characteristics. This is what put Nagel on the map as an artist to be reckoned it. Even though his tenure as an artist was cut short due to his untimely death (Nagel’s active artistic years were only from 1976 to 1984, a few months before his heart attack), his work still lives on in various vintage editions of Playboy magazine covers or the very famous Duran Duran album cover titled Rio.
Born in 1945 in Dayton, Ohio, Patrick Nagel spent most of his youth in Los Angeles. After a brief stint in the army during the Vietnam War, he enrolled in Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles and then later the California State University to study art. Initially Nagel worked as a graphic designer working on various TV adverts and news broadcasts. Once he became a bona fide artist, he worked on everything from board, paper to the canvas. His exposure through working for Playboy enabled him to expand his fan base and work more on creating his own distinct style of the female form. The Nagel woman soon became synonymous for her grace, beauty and almost feline like form. To any observer of Nagel’s work they could see that the woman in his works had a distinct air of mysteriousness about her, she was also always very elegant and sophisticatedly drawn. Nagel’s works drew popularity not only across America but globally as well, mainly due to the fact that all of his works bridged the gap between traditional art and contemporary trends. Due to the success of his paintings, there is no surprise as to the level of popularity he received throughout his career. Nagel’s clientele also included showbiz icons like Joan Collins, Mick Jagger and Joanna Cassidy. Collins commissioned him to work on her painting, her painting is a self portrait which softens Collins real life harsh features and is enriched with his trademark jet black hair – Collins real life hair color also happened to be black. She was so impressed by Nagel’s works that she went on to have 5 more portraits of her done exclusively by him. He always managed to make the woman in his works look aloof, distant yet alluring at the same time. Nagel drew a lot of his inspiration from Japanese woodblock prints which also happened to feature the female form, yet in his work the result was a very contemporary look which appealed to everyone globally.
Amongst the many accolades he received Nagel was recognized by the Communication Arts and Art Direction and Graphis institutes. His work adorns the Library of Congress as well as Oakland Museum, Smithsonian Institute, UCLA’s prestigious Grunwald Centre for Graphic Arts and the Bibliotheque des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. Today, Patrick Nagel’s artistic legacy is vast with a very loyal fan following, his series of posters which he worked on throughout his life get sold out in minutes when they are released. This just goes to show how much of a universal appeal Nagel had.