Alexandre Gallery is pleased to present Emily Nelligan: A Memorial Exhibition, a selection of forty landscape drawings from the past thirty years. This will be the gallery’s sixth show of Nelligan’s work, and the first since her death last year.
Reclusive and private by nature, Nelligan made drawings for herself—she rarely exhibited and avoided attention of any kind. Known only to a very small circle of artist friends and colleagues, she exchanged or gave work to people in the art world such as Lois Dodd, Wolf Kahn, Hilton Kramer, Norma Marin, Richard Pousette-Dart and Meyer Shapiro. Such was her world until 2000. In 2000 the Bowdoin College Museum of Art presented a summer exhibition of Nelligan’s drawings, which brought her first national attention. The show received a New York Times Arts & Leisure review, which began as follows:
Emily Nelligan’s charcoal drawings are almost all the same size: 10 inches wide by 7 inches high. Some are dark as a moonless night, some pale as fog. They all depict the same landscape: Great Cranberry Island, the southwest of Mount Desert Island in Maine. . . . In their minimal steel frames, they hang like sudden windows: instants of light and air translated into black and white.
The article continued:
Some of her most beautiful drawings deal with fading of light, when color leaves the day. “I go until it gets dark,” Ms. Nelligan said. “Then I sleep.” She works in charcoal on writing paper and never seals her drawings with a fixative, as if that would stifle them. She draws favorite places along the shore: ledges, where an erased white halo of surf floods a rock abstracted to a black circle; a spit of land embracing an inlet’s still water, its bands of whites and grays.
These deeply emotive drawings, with their graduated lights and darks, tell of Nelligan’s intimate relationship and connection with a beloved setting and the motifs that she returned to year-after- year. The drawings, often mystical in nature, reflect an enduring devotion to a chosen subject, Great Cranberry Island, and its infinite variability and universality.
Emily Nelligan was born in New York City in 1924 and graduated from Cooper Union in 1944. She was married to the Marvin “Buddy” Bileck, a Caldecott award winning children’s book illustrator, artist and printmaker. The gallery is honored to represent the artist’s estate and the Marvin Bileck and Emily Nelligan Trust. An illustrated catalogue will be published by the gallery on the occasion of this exhibition.