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This seems like a good evening to start this thread, as 4/40 was just sold today and I expect the new owner is going to love it as much as I love my 14/40, which has not come down from the wall since it got placed there several years ago.
Seated Man deserves its own thread. Heck, most of the images do. I thought this would be a good place to start discussing this work.
Seated Man was released as a limited edition graphic in July of 1981.
40 hand signed and numbered
10 hand signed Artist's Proofs
and at least 1 hand signed Printer's Proof (which is not listed in the book, but I have seen the signature and the notation, and like most, if not all, of Nagel's official printer's proof, Patrick actually
wrote out "Printer's Proof" in his handwriting, which would make it very difficult for anyone to forge.)
It was never reported to be a good seller, and I suppose some of that may come from the fact that many a Nagel collector is looking for the subject matter to be a female. I will say the subset of Nagel fans that admire this peice appear to do so passionately, myself included.
When looking for what might have inspired Nagel to do this work, I started looking at the other commercial work he was doing just before the release of Seated Man.
Eight months before Pat and Mirage Editions released Seated Man, Nagel had this illustration, a very small black and white drawing, published in Playboy.
It is hard for me to believe this is a coincidence; the similarities are striking.
A month later, January of 1981, six months before the release of Seated Man, Playboy published "The Tomorrow Show" which was a men's fashion spread, which included five full color paintings by Patrick Nagel.
While none of the pieces seem directly related to Seated Man this was the largest commission from Playboy Nagel had had since a very early in his working relationship with Playboy.
In June of 1981, one month before the release of Seated Man, Nagel was commissioned to do another set of illustrations for Playboy's article "The Ploys of Summer." The images in this article include a landscape of Monument Valley, a car (with the Collectors Gallery trees behind it) a plane, and ship with a seagull. Only one illustration contains a figure, a male, resting on the floor of a sauna.
Man in Sauna is remarkable for several reasons, but not the least of which is that it is one of the very few pieces where Nagel created a fully rendered environment.
The Playboy works are really valuable as a set because not only do the demonstrate the progression of Nagel's style, but they let us know what he was working on when, in a way that creates a time stamp for his ideas for paintings.
It seems to me that Seated Man might have his origins in the same photo-shoot that resulted in Man with IV and Man in Sauna. The hair is quite similar in both (not that there were a lot of other options) and the timeline is right.
One thing to note is that the internet can be the worst at unsubstantiated facts, because someone can post something on their site and then it sticks with folks, particularly when no one takes the time to refute it.
In this regard, others have speculated that Seated Man could be a self-portrait of Nagel. This never seemed true to me for the simple fact that Patrick seems to have always had a beard in adulthood. Also his nose is completely a different shape in profe than that of Seated Man. But, when I had the change to ask Barry Haun, Nagel's assistant for the last part of his life, I did. While he reported that he was not yet working with Nagel when the image was created, he clearly remembered seeing the photo used for Seated Man and it was of a male model, not Pat.
Barry did some restoration work on the original on illustration board, which was sold at Just Looking Gallery's 2007 Patrick Nagel retrospective. Below is as is appeared at that show.
Barry is the person that convinced Nagel to start painting on canvas, which is why a large work like Seated Man that later in Pat's career would have been rendered on canvas, only exists on board.
While I was admiring it, I also got the chance to look at the two versions of he black line illustrations that were done for Seated Man. One version had the hair filled in and was smaller than the other.
Nagelite, I believe, also mentioned once at the old Nagel discussion boards, that Seated Man was originally going to be a smaller print. This would explain the versions created on black line and, also, why the print has some differences from the original work on board.
The image below is a better version of the original work on board as it appeared in one of the Nagel calendars released by the estate:
I know it is hard to tell in this photo, but the line of the figures shoulder runs longer on the original. Also, the hair as a couple of places where the highlight are paired up as opposed to all be single highlights as they appear in the graphic. And, then there is the highlight behind the ear on the original that is not o the serigraph.
There are also subtle differences in the eyes.
I find the work itself very interesting for many reasons.
The piece is incredibly well drawn, and the details in the hands and the shortening of the left hand is particularly well done considering Nagel's work often does not easily lend it self to anything other than flattened space.
The man's haircut is timeless and his trousers are fad-proof classics.
I also find the choice of where Nagel bisects the background really interesting. It is about 1/3 from the top of the work and creates a sense of space for the figure (enhanced by the addition of the small geometric shapes) that would otherwise be absent without it.
As for the way this man is posed:
Nagel has this man sitting on a block, like he is a work of art. He had presumably just painted an man sitting in a chair. He is also in profile, but unlike most of Nagel's profiles of women, which are most often looking straight ahead with their heads held high (Yochum-Kay being he most notable exception.), this man has his head tilted down, which makes him appear more submissive and relaxed.
This man is also not wearing any shoes, socks, or a shirt. (No shoes, no shift, no service!)
These all make this man more vulnerable, and frankly, objectified. This man, to me, looks so demure, particularly when compared to the figure in Nagel's next work, Great Dame, released just three months later, is a vision of strength with her head upright and shoulder back.
Those who see in Nagel objectified women are failing to see past the superficial. ALL visual art turns its subject matter into a object. Nagels women were no more objectified than the women in the works of Renoir, Degas, or Rodin.
But Nagel's single image of man released as a serigraph by Mirage is a man that can be seen as being slightly submissive and accepting of his objectification. He is clearly more so than any of the men from "The Tomorrow Show" paintings that were created around the same time.
And the barefoot. Nagel rarely showed bare feet. We'd have to wait until the image that became NC/CN 4 to see another shoe-less foot.
Most likely without even thinking about it, Seated Man is Nagel's answer to that pseudo-sexist criticism, while also being an incredible work of art.