“Drawing is the First Art, everything else springs from that.” ~ Robert A. Nelson, 1925-2021

Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1925, Dr. Nelson studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he received his B.A.E. degree in 1950 and his M.A.E. degree in 1951. He taught at his Alma mater as well as the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg and the University of North Dakota before returning to school at New York University, where he received his Education Doctorate in 1971. The following year, Robert began teaching at Cleveland State University, where he stayed until 1975 when he joined the University of North Carolina faculty at Chapel Hill. He then joined Millersville University, and in 1997, Millersville University granted him the rank of professor emeritus.

Not only has Nelson exhibited at MoMA, but his art is also included in the permanent collection of The Museum of Modern Art, as well as the Smithsonian American Art Gallery, Washington, DC, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, the University of Texas, Texas, the Seattle Art Museum, Washington, Ohio University, Ohio, the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, the DeCordova Museum, Boston, the Brooklyn Museum, New York, the North Carolina Art Museum, North Carolina, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minnesota, the University of Minnesota Morris, Minnesota, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, the University of Maryland, Maryland, the Rourke Art Museum, Minnesota, Millersville University, Pennsylvania, George Mason University, Virginia, the University of Manitoba, Canada, the Plains Art Museum, North Dakota. Bob was also part of the first Exhibit by The American Federation of the Arts, 50 Artists: 50 States.
Nelson also received the prestigious Purchase Prize in the 31st National Exhibition of Boston Printmakers and was awarded the Cezanne medal from the French government in 1961.

You can see the things that influence Bob including past Presidents and historical figures, the Wizard of Oz, Flash Gordon, classic fables, and mythology and many animals, including those from his homestead. 

“I hope people find it interesting. I like to amaze them a little bit- the dark humor disturbs them in many cases. You have to look at it and you have to think about it.” ~ Robert A. Nelson

*** Many museums are suspected, both Nationally and Internationally, and we are convinced this list is incomplete. If you would like to add to the list, please contact the Gallery.

His experiences as a cartographer, book illustrator, meatpacking plant tour guide, teacher, a member of the 7th Cavalry, FlyBoy, Air Force Veteran and herdsman feed the fanatical journeys that he takes each viewer on with every drawing, painting, sculpture, collage, or print that he makes. His determination to excite and intrigue hasn’t slowed down and continues to inspire those around him. The stories by people who he has taught or influenced are equally as inspiring, and resound the notion of a person truly living a life of art. Since retiring as a professor, Bob lived remotely in the mountains of Oregon with his wife Louise, 3 dogs, 4 horses, donkeys, barn cats, and a dozen parakeets. A renaissance man with dark humor caught in the wrong century, Bob’s story is one that we feel is worth the trip.

“If I had to name one artist that most influenced him it would be da Vinci… but of course, da Vinci didn’t have the Nelson sense of humor… It’s funny as hell.” ~Chick Kozloff, author, art collector.