Editor’s note: Nathan Oliveira passed away on November 13, 2010.
For more than 30 years, internationally recognized painter Nathan Oliveira occupied a serene studio nestled in the foothills above Stanford University, where he taught for decades. Spark visited Oliveira where he created some of his most famous works.
Oliveira is well-known as a major painter associated with a group of artists called the Bay Area Figurative School. Taking a cue from the abstract expressionist style that characterized East Coast painting in the postwar period, Oliveira and others used a thick, painterly style, but used it to represent rough, abstracted figures and landscapes.
Over the last 20 years, Oliveira had intermittently worked on “The Windover,” a series of paintings named for a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. The canvases, which depict abstract forms recalling wings, were inspired by the red-tailed hawks living in the foothills that surround Oliveira’s studio. In an effort to keep the series of nearly 20 paintings together as a group, Oliveira had been meeting with Stanford officials to create a quiet space somewhere in the foothills to house “The Windover” and be designed as a peaceful refuge where visitors can go to meditate and collect their thoughts.
Nathan Oliveira earned a B.A. in 1951 and an M.F.A. in 1952 from the California College of Arts and Crafts (now known as the California College of the Arts). He has won several awards, including an Artist’s Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and the distinction of Ann O’Day Maples Professor in the Arts at Stanford University. In 1999, he was named Commander of the Order of Henry the Navigator, the highest civilian honor awarded by the Republic of Portugal, for contributions to Portuguese culture. His work can be seen in international collections, including the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, and Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Hirshorn Museum in Washington, D.C.