Breaking Tradition: The Story of Louise Nevelson

A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.  ~Abraham Maslow

Breaking Tradition: The Story of Louise Nevelson, by Natalie S. Bober, was a fast read and a good introduction to the life of a great artist. Louise Nevelson was a complex personality, difficult in many ways, driven and consumed by her need to create, and a woman who lived her art completely. This book was written in 1984, four years before Nevelson’s death, and was written as an introduction to her life and art for high school students, so it was well researched (with footnotes included) but was more pedantic than Bober’s later biographical works.  I didn’t mind that too much, though, because the personality of the artist was fascinating and her life story equally so.  And I love reading Natalie Bober’s books.

Louise Nevelson was born in Kiev, Russia, in 1899.  Her family immigrated to Rockland, Maine, when she was six years old.  She knew at a very young age that she was an artist, and never lost that focus.

“In the first grade, I already knew the pattern of my life. I didn’t know the living of it, but I knew the line… From the first day in school until the day I graduated, everyone gave me one hundred plus in art. Well, where do you go in life? You go to the place where you got one hundred plus.”

“Art is everywhere, except it has to pass through a creative mind.”

She experimented with many different artistic mediums, including dance and song, but finally realized that her true passion was sculpture. She was highly influenced by her father, who was a builder of houses and an antique collector, and she developed a passion for collecting all kinds of objects, especially wood, and she turned those found objects into the most amazing sculptures.

Nevelson was a powerful personality and a powerful artist, and her work was her life.  “I am a women’s liberation,” was her response to a question about her reaction to the women’s liberation movement of the 60s and 70s.  She broke tradition in many, many ways, but was always true to her artist vision. “My total conscious search in life has been for a new seeing, a new image, a new insight.”

“I believe in my work and in the joy of it. You have to be with the work and the work has to be with you. It absorbs you totally and you absorb it totally.”

“I never liked the middle ground–the most boring place in the world.”

To learn more about Louise Nevelson and to see more photographs of her work, click on the following links.

The Louise Nevelson Foundation

The Jewish Museum

The Pace Gallery


I read and enjoyed this book for the Women Unbound Reading Challenge, and as my final book for Sarah’s Art History Reading Challenge.

4 thoughts on “Breaking Tradition: The Story of Louise Nevelson

  1. Kim

    Your choices for the art history challenge have been terrific! I have one more to go, this will be one challenge that I actually finish!


  2. Robin Post author

    Thanks, Bybee! I had heard her name, but knew nothing about her before I read this book. I found her quite fascinating. What a character!

    Thanks, Kim! I’ve really enjoyed this challenge and reading all the different reviews. I’m definitely looking forward to it again in 2010.



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