Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Patrick Nagel, the ultimate influential illustrator of the 80s?

**Before I begin, I have to point out that I've included a lot of hard to find rare, commerical and Playboy illustrations by Nagel. A simple google search will bring you his most popular works in a matter of milliseconds, so I though it would be nice to pool together a big mix of lesser seen works, alongside one or two more iconic pieces**






The first thing ANYONE usually thinks when seeing Nagel's work, before even thinking of 'illustration', is simply "EIGHTIES"
While this would be considered by the less mindful to be a negative aspect, it shows just how much Nagel's style impacted the visual language of the era. If you go round east london you will see "fakel" illustrations (rip-offs) used in every other nail and hair bar. It has become completely synonymous with the high impact o.t.t glamour of that decade. Nagel is also the German translation for "nails", whether that has something to do with it too perhaps, I'm not sure.

More after the jump . . . .














Nagel probably painted less than 100 paintings on canvas. He was reticent to even paint on canvas, prefering instead to use artist board. He painted some of his images on canvas around 1981 until his death. I've included some examples of these rare works, borrowed from the AMAZING unofficial Patrick Nagel forum.
In addition to his paintings, Nagel created large-scale graphics silk-screened by hand. These were usually published in limited editions of ninety or fewer and are approximately three by four feet in size. Prior to or within several weeks of publication each of the graphic editions sold out. They include only the basic elements of graphics and are as luxurious and stunning as his paintings.
Fun fact: He designed a limited-edition serigraph for Joan Collins, whom Nagel felt had the look of his "women of the eighties": sophisticated and self-confident, a professional who was not afraid to be glamorous. She now owns five Nagel pieces.













In the early 80s he contributed an illustration for every single issue for the Playboy Advisor column. Multiple influences are at play in his work, Art Deco, the "finish fetish" sheen of California car detailing and Japanese woodcuts.
His flat tone gouache illustrations gave great consideration to proportion and shape, and the battle of reducing as much detail as possible (usually worked from photographs of models) until the image was as graphically simple and bold as possible.


To directly quote the official site: "His emergence as one of the gifted few stemmed from his unique vision of the contemporary woman. Handling color with rare originality and freedom, he continually simplified his designs to greater effect.
His work embodies the roots of early 20th century graphic design while giving shape to current trends in fashion and music."



Hia cover illustration for Duran Duran's wordlwide number 1 album Rio is immediately his most famous piece. Sushi Girl was likely the last work that Pat submitted for publication before his death. It graced the cover of Chicago magazine (containing an announcement of Pat's death inside) and has also gone on to become one of his most recognisable works, however the hand and chopsticks were removed and the version (seen above) is subsequently harder to find.
The unfortunate side to Nagel's iconic style was the inevitable slide of copycats. It was done to such an extent that it's now hard to see Nagel's work as original, fresh and unique if you weren't alive at the time. It's tragic how overlooked Nagel's work has become in favour of more timeless illustrators such as Gruau or Lopez. Make sure you check out the official Nagel site here, or buy a copy of the original Nagel book, you can pick up a second hand copy on Amazon for just a few pounds/dollars at the moment!







"Roxanne with racoons", quite probably his rudest piece for Playboy:








Two mirror designs (I NEED THESE)










5 comments:

  1. http://patricknagelart.tumblr.com/

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  2. Excellent post. I own two Nagels, but the one still I want is an original rendering of Sushi Girl, but I do not know if that was ever published as a stand alone

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    1. Great Post. I also own several Nagel's, including original paintings and original pencil drawings. If you're interested in the original rendering of Sushi Girl, you should contact me...I actually have the original graphite pencil drawing of Sushi Girl! It's an original drawing on vellum that's in good condition and it's a showcase example of Nagel's refined drawings. You can email me for more information and images.
      Katie
      katielovesthe80s@gmail.com

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  3. Love the post. Well done!

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  4. The first ever biography of Patrick Nagel, is complete. Being he was so successful in 1980s, the boomers in your audience will want to know. Here's why:

    Most of them either owned, or still own his art, especially if they were fans of Playboy magazine. They know his art; they just don't know his name.

    Patrick Nagel took the 1980s by storm only to die suddenly at age 38. He gave the 1980s its look and even though more than two million American homes enjoyed his art, few people even knew his name.

    The book is titled The Artist Who Loved Women: The Incredible Life & Work of Patrick Nagel, the Most Successful & Anonymous Artist of the 1980s , (ISBN 9786926859281) and is the only biography of Nagel's personal, professional and artistic evolution. Available at Amazon or
    http://www.TheArtistWhoLovedWomen.com

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