Reuben Nakian was an American sculptor, illustrator, and teacher. He was born on August 10, 1897 in College Point, New York and died on December 4, 1986 in Stamford, Connecticut.
Nakian's recurring themes are from Greek and Roman mythology. Noted works include Leda and the Swan, The Rape of Lucrece, Hecuba, and Birth of Venus. He was also commissioned to create portraits of Roosevelt's cabinet in the 1930s.
In 1915 Nakian studied at the Independent School of Art in New York City, then studied at the Robert Henri School with Homer Boss and A.S. Baylinson. Later he studied at the Art Students League of New York and was apprenticed to
Nakian met and befriended painters Arshile Gorky and Willem de Kooning in the 1930s and Marsden Hartley and Marcel Duchamp in the 1940s.
Poet Frank O'Hara was the curator of a Nakian exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in 1966. In the exhibition's catalog, O'Hara notes,
Nakian is unrepressed, un-neurotic, unabashed in his approach to sensuality, however tortuous his esthetic commitment, and whether his subject be death, bestiality, or Arcadian dalliance. This explicitness gives the "Nymph and Satyr" plaques a marvelous joy and ease, the "Europa" terra-cottas a voluptous dignity, and the "Leda and the Swan" drawings an almost comic abandon. Unlike most sexually oriented images in modern art, from Rodin to Andy Warhol, one finds no guilt or masochism in a Nakian. It is outgoing and athletic even in its releases and defeats: the satyr, the bull, the swan, the goat are each circumvented or absorbed by the goddess of his choice in the most choice of circumstances, that of his own choosing, like the amorous "dying" of the Elizabethans or the Metamorphoses of Ovidd.