“Nathan Oliveira’s passion is for continuing an inner-directed artistic tradition attached to the human subject…. The evocation of mystery that the viewer experiences in Oliveira’s work derives from a depth of feeling refracted through artistic tradition and transmitted to the spectator by the artist’s hand,” wrote Peter Selz in a catalog essay for Oliveira’s 2002 painting and printmaking retrospective at the San Jose Museum of Art, California (traveling to the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, New York, and three other museums).
Oliveira was born in 1928 in Oakland, California, to a family of Portugese immigrants. He studied painting and printmaking at the California College of Arts and Crafts (now the California College of the Arts) in Oakland and at Mills College in Oakland with Max Beckmann during the summer of 1950. After two years in the U.S. Army as a cartographic draftsman, he began teaching painting at CCA, and drawing and printmaking at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) in 1955. Since then, he has had guest teaching appointments at many art schools and universities. He held a tenured teaching position at Stanford University from 1964 until he retired in 1995. He lived in Stanford, California until his death in November, 2010.
In 1959 Oliveira was the youngest painter included in the important exhibition New Images of Man at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. A survey of five years of his paintings and works on paper was shown at the Art Gallery of the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1963, and a fifteen-year survey of his paintings was organized by the Oakland Museum of California in 1973. He had a print retrospective in 1980 at California State University, Long Beach, and the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco organized a survey of his work in monotype in 1997. Oliveira was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1994, and he has received many other awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, two honorary doctorates, and, in 2000, a membership in a distinguished order conferred by the government of Portugal. His work is in the collections of many museums, among them the Art Institute of Chicago, the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He was represented by the DC Moore Gallery, New York, the Marsha Mateyka Gallery, Washington, D.C., and the John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco.
-Kathan Brown, Crown Point Press