Robert Natkin, Apollo Series 1, 1995, Acrylic on paper on canvas, 21" x 40”
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ROBERT NATKIN (1930 – 2010)
Born in Chicago in 1930, Robert Natkin studied at the Art School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he was deeply drawn to Post-Impressionism. Upon graduation, he spent a year in New York, where he met Willem de Kooning and was influenced by Abstract Expressionism. Returning to Chicago in 1953, he joins a group of painters who would form the core of the seminal 1957 exhibition Momentum held at the Navy Pier. Three years later he would be included in the Whitney Museum exhibition Young America.
His interest in Post-Impressionism, along with early modernists like Klee, Kandinsky and Matisse, combined with the influence of post-war abstraction, served to create his signature style. Bright colors in acrylic and bold shapes were given added dimension through the use of stenciling, creating a variety of surface texture.
In the early 1960s, Natkin introduced paintings with vertical structures that were distinctly different from his previous works. He was interested in the interaction of light and color and wanted to explore that relationship without the concerns and limitations of composition. Like many other artists from that period, he turned to simple geometric forms, a sort of stripe in his case, to provide that freedom and flexibility. Thus, the “Apollo” series, named after the Greek god of sun and poetry, was born. Natkin explored color relationships by juxtaposing colors of differing widths to create a range of visual effects from vibrational to serene and meditative. Unlike Karl Benjamin and Gene Davis, he did not create hard-edged, pristine stripes. Instead, his structures were loose and organic, maintaining his interest in gestural strokes, stenciling and surface texture.
Natkin passed away in 2010 and his career comprises a long roster of museum and gallery exhibitions around the globe and his work can be found in myriad museum collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Centre Pompidou, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Milwaukee Art Center along with many others.