Elie Nadelman


When the public does not find nude women in sculpture they wonder whether the works are artistic or not. When one represents women in their dresses or men wearing hats, the public, not being accustomed to this, do not know whether there is art or solid insolence. Instead of trying to decide about the question the public revolts. - Elie Nadelman

Eliasz (Elie) Nadelman was born in Warsaw on February 20, 1882. His father was a jeweler and goldsmith, his mother from a family of artists, writers and musicians. Nadelman studied at the Warsaw Art Academy, then moved to Munich in 1902.


It was in Munich, at the Glyptothek Museum, that he became interested in Greek and Roman sculptures. 


In 1904 he moved to Paris and, for the next ten years had much success with his art. His combined interest in Classical and Folk Art led to his creation of Cubist drawings and sculptures, which resulted in his inclusion in avant-garde exhibits at the Société des Artistes Indépendants and at the Salon d'Automne from 1905 to 1908. 


In 1908, Nadelman was introduced to Pablo Picasso by American art dealer, Leo Stein. Stein bought many of Nadelman’s early drawings. His work, during his time in Paris, had a profound impact on early 20th-century modern sculpture.


Nadelman moved to the United States in 1914, at the outbreak of World War l, where his work was well received. He married Viola Flannery in 1920. Flannery came from a wealthy family and the couple live in Alderbrook, the family estate in Riverdale, The Bronx, as well as a townhouse on the Upper East Side. The couple had one son, Jan, who became the US Ambassador to Poland. They collected thousands of pieces of Folk Art and established a Museum of Folk Arts in Riverdale, N.Y. in 1925. Nadelman became an American citizen in 1927.


The Nadelmans lost much of their wealth during the Depression. He had his last solo exhibit in Paris in 1930, and had difficulty showing and selling his work during the Depression era. Their vast collection from the Museum of Folk Arts was sold to the New York Historical Society in 1937. Much of the Alderbrook property was sold, including the land that housed his studio.



 Many of his wood, plaster and paper mache sculptures were destroyed when workers moved his things from the studio into the basement and attic of the main house. 


As time went on, Nadelman became increasingly seclusive. He was troubled by depression, exacerbated by the loss of his Jewish family to the Nazis in Poland.


Lincoln Kirstein, art curator and co-founder of the New York City Ballet, was a friend of Viola Nadelman, and saved much of Nadelman’s work. He found hundreds of clay and plaster figures in Nadelman’s studio after the artist's death in December 1946. Kirstein had two of Nadelman’s 4-foot plaster sculptures reproduced in marble, of monumental size, and placed in the lobby of the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center in 1964. Kirstein also collected and photographed much of Nadelman's work and presented them in a book dedicated to the artist.


When Nadelman’s son, Jan Nadelman, retired from public service in 1972  he returned to Riverdale and managed the art estate of his father and helped to create a period of increasing fame for the sculptor and his work. He had the sculpture, Tango, originally done in cherrywood, cast in bronze by the Modern Art Foundry in 1974.


Retrospectives of Nadelman's works were presented, after his death, by MoMA and The Whitney. 


Elie Nadelman’s work can be found at The Met, MoMA, The National Gallery of Art, the Wadsworth Atheneum as well as many private collections.





The New York Times. Elie Nadelman, 64 A sculptor Here. The New York Times. December 30, 1946.

James Panero The house gods of Elie Nadelman. The New Criterion. May 2003.

Alfred Werner. Nadelman: Recluse of Riverdale:The Artist as Personality. Commentary. June 1950.

Hilton Kramer. Sculptor Nadelman Created a Scandal Dressing His Work. Observer. April 4. 2003.


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