University Letter

UND's faculty and staff newsletter

Remembering Robert A. Nelson

Photo of Robert A. Nelson courtesy of Karen Anderer Fine Art

Robert A. Nelson, former professor and chair of visual arts, died Dec. 2, 2021 at his home in Lakeside, Ore. He was 96.

Robert Nelson was born Aug. 1, 1925, in Milwaukee, Wis. He earned his master’s degree from the Art Institute of Chicago.

Robert Nelson, 1970

He began teaching at the University of Manitoba School of Art in 1954, and joined the faculty at the University of North Dakota in 1956. He earned his doctorate in education at the University of New York in 1971. He taught graduate courses in painting and drawing and undergraduate courses in anatomy, drawing and print-making, all while maintaining a private studio.

“Light Gun Salute” by Robert A. Nelson, was created to commemorate UND’s Centennial and is in UND’s permanent collection. It is on display at the Gorecki Alumni Center

Some of his work is in the permanent collection of UND Art Collections.

He moved to Cleveland State University after 1972, and also taught at the University of Cleveland and Millersville University in Pennsylvania. He retired from Millersville University in 1997.

In 1951, Robert Nelson was awarded the Cezanne medal from the government of France, and in 1979, he received the prestigious Purchase Prize at the Boston Printmakers 31st National Exhibition. Nelson’s work is included in the permanent collections of numerous major museums including the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC), the National Gallery of Art, (Washington, DC), the Seattle Art Museum (Washington), the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), the DeCordova Museum (Boston), the Brooklyn Museum (New York), the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Minnesota), the Cleveland Museum of Art (Ohio), the Millersville University, (Pennsylvania), the School of Art Gallery, University of Manitoba, (Manitoba), and the Plains Art Museum (North Dakota).

Nelson, who was inspired by Old Masters like Leonard Da Vinci, created highly-technically, yet surreal and imaginative drawings, prints and intricate collages that displayed his talent as a draftsman and showcased his unique creative vision. His last show, “Animals” recently closed at Karen Anderer Fine Art, and was featured in Lancaster Online. The exhibit featured a selection of recent work and pieces from Nelson’s extensive vault.

At the time of his death, he lived on a small rural property at Lakeside, Oregon, with his wife Louise, and their many dogs, horses, donkeys, barn cats and parakeets. He is survived by his wife, Louise Schintz-Nelson; sons, Mark Nelson and his wife Anita, Max Nelson, and his “adopted art-student son,” Patrick O’Loughlin. He is predeceased by his son, Zack.

A celebration of life event for Nelson will be announced through Karen Anderer Fine Art, who represented him until his passing.