Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

San Francisco, California

(415) 750-3600



Nathan Oliveira at California Palace of the Legion of Honor


Nathan Oliveria, Italian Site, #7


Consisting of approximately 100 monotypes and monoprints arranged chronologically in three galleries, this exhibition (June 14 through September 14, 1997) will constitute a retrospective of Nathan Oliveira's work in three mediums -- the first such retrospective in 18 years. One of the Bay Area's preeminent artists who over the years has distinguished himself in a variety of mediums, Oliveira has made an extraordinary contribution to the art of the monotype.

Oliveira initially experimented with this one-of-a-kind print form in 1969, but it was his 1972 discovery of the innovative monotypes of Degas that led him to deeper colorations of the medium.

The monotype begins as a painting on a metal (sometimes glass or Plexiglas) plate that yields only one print. The plate, however, retains an attenuated memory, or "ghost" which can be brought back to life through reworking. It was the monotype's potential for serial composition that most interested Oliveira. His first serial compositions of 1973 were based on Goya's 1818 etching La Tauromaquia 21, (The Bull Fight) and Rembrandt's Three Crosses, 1653.

Nathan Oliveira, Self-Portrait



While Oliveira based some of these early sequential monotypes on the works of these great masters, his later monotypes evolved entirely from his imagination, with landscapes predominating and standing figures occasionally appearing. The Bundles and Sites series are among these original compositions. The former, in its depiction of wrapped "implements" (as Oliveira has referred to them), evoked, for many, Pre-Columbian archaeological sites and Indian artifacts. The Sites were both landscapes and generalized, surreal locales and depictions of actual specific places.

From about 1976 on, Oliveira has brought each of his monotypes to completion through an elaborate process which he refers to as "vertical" (proceeding layer upon layer on the same sheet), as opposed to "horizontal" (sequential development). In what is essentially a painterly process, the image is gradually built up from repeated color impressions obtained from as many as nine successive runs, followed by inpainting with a brush.

The exhibition will include an introductory section about the history of the monotype and monoprint process.

Read more about the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in Resource Library Magazine

Nathan Oliveira: A Figure Apart is a 2018 exhibit at the Napa Valley Museum which says: "Nathan Oliveira was an American artist and prominent member of the second generation of the Bay Area Figurative artists. Though he worked with a variety of media, subjects, and disciplines over the course of his long career, Oliveira is best remembered for the brilliantly colored figurative and landscape paintings he created while associated with the California movement." Accessed 7/18

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 1997 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

Copyright 2012-2020 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.