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Lowell Nesbitt’s moody interior portrait of Alex Katz’ 1960s loft studio in New York City glows in shades of grey, blue, brown, and incandescent red. This lithograph is based on several Nesbitt paintings from 1967-1972 depicting Katz’ studio. The subjects of many of Nesbitt’s studio interior paintings were those of his colleagues, including Claes Oldenberg, Robert Indiana, Helen Frankenthaler, and Andy Warhol. Tall wooden shutters keep out the light, giving the sense of a cave. A fold-up chair leans against the wall, and in front of it, the curved wooden legs of a bentwood chair are held together by a red C-clamp. A scribbled-on sketch pad and tools strewn about reveal that the artist is not far — the black-out shutters reveal he has worked all night, and now sleeps through the morning. In a nod to the historical artist’s portrait, Nesbitt includes a mirror in which his easel can be seen. The artist’s mastery of texture is evident in the floor’s rough, paint-covered surface and the beechwood chair’s narrow shadows: when viewed closely, Nesbitt’s fine lines scatter in every direction, yet coalesce into uncanny realism as the viewer draws back.
Nesbitt was best known for his large-scale images of roses, lilies, and other blooms, depicted in close-ups reminiscent of Georgia O’Keefe’s famed flower paintings. Other favorite subjects included studio interiors (Nesbitt painted the studio of Andy Warhol), his dog – a Rottweiler named Eric, Manhattan’s major bridges, and the Neo-Classical facades of Soho’s 19th-century cast-iron buildings. Nesbitt’s Soho mansion was a popular gathering spot in the 1970s for artists and celebrities such as Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist, Roy Lichtenstein, and Larry Rivers.
Lowell Nesbitt’s first solo museum exhibit was held at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, and the artist later bequeathed over $1 million to the museum. After the Corcoran canceled a controversial exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe photographs, Nesbitt publicly revoked his gift, as Mapplethorpe was an old friend.
Nesbitt exhibited frequently in both the United States and Europe and is represented in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His first one-man show in New York City was at the Howard Wise Gallery in 1965, and over the years he was represented in New York by the Stable Gallery, the Robert Stefanotti Gallery, the Andrew Crispo Gallery, and the Marco DiLaurenti Gallery in SoHo.