You're sitting there with your muse and

your muse is telling you something and you're following it, and you end up the

next day looking at it and thinking,

'What the hell was the muse saying to me?’

Nathan Oliveira: Muse

Selected Works From the Estate

Pamela Walsh Gallery is proud to present Nathan Oliveira: Muse, a small collection of figural paintings from the estate of the artist. As a key figure in American Art, Nathan Oliveira (1928 – 2010) was a persistently individualistic artist who paved his own path in defiance of the existing ideology of the time. His unshakeable dedication to the figure led him to become a prominent member of the Bay Area Figurative Movement, and his legacy lives on to this day. 


Oliveira revisited his life drawing practice many times throughout his career as he continued to explore the mysteries of the human body and the challenges of rendering it. Already well-known for his large oil paintings of solitary, enigmatic figures, Oliveira's work with live models revealed a different side of his artistry. These studio sessions produced fluid watercolors that spontaneously captured the poetic sensuality of the female form. This collection highlights three focused periods of time when Oliveira drew his inspiration from live models to create a body of work: Imi, Crown Point Press Nudes and Santa Fe Nudes


Oliveira identified the most important characteristics of his work as chance, risk, and gesture, which he combined with a personal concern for the more traditional aspects of figure painting. The apotheosis of his style evolved from his search for an expressive relationship between form and space that found resonance in his presentation of the single figure. The human touch, so often absent in contemporary work, is always present in the work of Oliveira.   

The Collection

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In 1989, during his tenure at Stanford University, Oliveira met a Korean graduate student named Imi who began to model for him. Their work together in the studio culminated in a series of sensual, earth-toned watercolors that were a departure from his esoteric oils.

Crown Point Press Nudes

Oliveira worked on several projects at San Francisco’s famed Crown Point Press over the years. In 1998, he participated in live model sessions which helped him "warm-up" to work in the printmaking studio. The ink paintings of nudes he created in these sessions have a beautiful flow of movement that looks like a dance. “I don’t seek to replicate the reality of the human figure, but to reach behind that, to a different reality born out of the language of gesture and the fluidity of the material I use.”

Santa Fe Nudes

Ten years after the Imi series, while teaching a master class at the Santa Fe Institute of Fine Arts, Oliveira again turned to a live model. He worked with her every day to create a series of nudes inspired by the colors of the Southwest. The cropping and distillation of these fluid forms offer a fresh perspective to this subject.