Ralph Nagel: Being There

Ralph Nagel, "Maid Cottage, Waterford Castle," 2018. Acrylic on panel, 48” x 60”. Courtesy Bruno David Gallery.

Posted by Liam Otten September 27, 2018


The Alpilles mountains erupt from the fields of Les Baux-de-Provence. Red votive candles, embroidered with golden thread, jostle with rich fabrics in a Hangzhou temple shop. The rocks of Plaza Blanca tower and tumble like clouds against a clear blue sky.

Over the past 15 years, Ralph Nagel has explored the challenges and rewards of en plein air painting. Being There, his first solo exhibition with St. Louis’ Bruno David Gallery, collects more than 35 canvases and watercolors documenting sites across France, China, Thailand, Ireland and the American Southwest.

“Each painting has a particular rigor,” writes Carmon Colangelo, the Ralph J. Nagel Dean of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, in the exhibition catalogue. “Regardless of the subject, there is a consistent sense of energy, observation and wonder.”

Ralph Nagel, "Plaza Blanca Monument," 2014. Watercolor on Paper, 29” × 41”. Courtesy Bruno David Gallery.

Born in St. Charles, Illinois, Nagel earned his bachelor’s degree in architecture from Washington University in 1967 and his master’s in 1969. He then studied urban design and city planning at the University of Pennsylvania, winning the state’s prestigious Stewardson Competition. He later coordinated the winning team in an international competition centering on Louis Sullivan’s historic Wainwright Building complex in St. Louis.

Nagel’s paintings have been featured in solo exhibitions throughout Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Thailand, New Zealand, and the United States, including Chicago, Dallas, Santa Fe, St. Louis, and Denver. He is a member of Les Rats de Champ of Paris, France, and co-founder of the painting group, STUDIO 208.

“Truly seeing the subject of my art only takes place once the painting begins,” Nagel says. “It's about that day, that moment. I would be lost if I knew the end when I begin. And as in life, painting is about having the courage to take risks towards an outcome that is unknown.”

A Washington University trustee, Nagel also serves on the Sam Fox School National Council and chairs the Denver Regional Cabinet. Last spring, he received the Dean’s Medal for service to the Sam Fox School.

Bruno David Gallery

Ralph Nagel: Being There opens with a reception from 5-8p Thursday, October 4, and remains on view through November 17. The Bruno David Gallery is located at 7513 Forsyth Blvd. For more information, visit brunodavidgallery.com or follow the gallery on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.