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First Personage

Louise Nevelson

Contemporary Art

Louise Nevelson emerged as an artist in the early 1940s, against criticism that she was neglecting the roles of wife and mother and biased skepticism about a female sculptor’s physical and intellectual strength. Nevelson’s totemic wood construction evokes the psychological tension between interior and exterior. As suggested by the sculpture’s title, the undulating frontal slab represents the controlled, outer persona, while the spiky column behind intimates a hidden, agitated, and chaotic self. First Personage features found, splintered, rough, and broken pieces of wood and is one of the first examples that the artist composed in what would become her iconic form.
MEDIUM Painted wood
DATES 1956
DIMENSIONS a: 94 × 37 1/16 × 11 1/4 in. (238.8 × 94.1 × 28.6 cm) b: 73 11/16 × 24 3/16 × 7 1/4 in. (187.2 × 61.4 × 18.4 cm)  (show scale)
SIGNATURE "NEVELSON" carved into the wood on the base of component b
COLLECTIONS Contemporary Art
CREDIT LINE Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Berliawsky
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Louise Nevelson (American, born Ukraine, 1899–1988). First Personage, 1956. Painted wood, a: 94 × 37 1/16 × 11 1/4 in. (238.8 × 94.1 × 28.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Berliawsky, 57.23a-b. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 57.23a-b_PS11.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 57.23a-b_PS11.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2022
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RIGHTS STATEMENT © artist or artist's estate
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