Print Search
Wiki Search
Random Art


Nagel, Patrick

THE artist of that defined the 1980's even though he died early in 1984.

Patrick Nagel (1945 - February 4, 1984) was an American artist, known for his focus on women and the female form, in the Art Deco style.

Nagel was born in Dayton, Ohio. However, he was raised and spent most of his life in the Los Angeles area. He attended the Choinard Art Institute in Los Angeles.

In his lifetime he created hundreds of illustrations on board, paper, and canvas, most of which emphasizes the simple grace of and beauty of the female form.

Nagel's work is superficially reminiscent of Japanese woodblock prints, with their unusual cropping and large fields of color, but thematically, Nagel's shares more in common with 1920s Art Deco and the design aesthetics of J. C. Leyendecker or Maxfield Parrish.

Nagel would start with a photograph and work down, always simplifying and removing elements which he felt were unnecessary. The resulting image would look flat, but emphasized those elements which he felt were most important.

Nagel's figures generally have black hair, bright white skin, full-lipped mouths, and the distinctive Nagel eyes, which are often squared off in the later works. Because of the intense stylization and reduction of facial features into clean lines, generally the figures resemble each other, though Nagel worked with many models, including Playboy Playmates Cathy St. George, Tracy Vaccarro and Shannon Tweed. Nagel also painted several celebrity portraits including those of Joan Collins (whose portrait was subsequently released as a limited edition print) and Joanna Cassidy.

While Nagel's work is mostly represented by aloof, if also seductive women, they are rarely, if ever, presented in a submissive relationship with men. These are highly sexual, but empowered and intelligent, women. Nagel also painted men, though only one was ever released as a fine art print while Nagel was alive. He had and continues to have a devoted following of collectors.

Through work connected with Playboy and the pop group Duran Duran, for which he designed the cover of the best selling album Rio, as well as many commercial projects, including work for Intel, Lucky Strike cigarettes, and Budweiser, Nagel and his work garnered international acclaim.

In 1984, at the age of 38, the artist participated in a 15-minute celebrity "Aerobathon" to raise funds for the American Heart Association. Afterwards, he was found dead in his car, and doctors determined by autopsy that he had suffered a heart attack.

Patrick Nagel had been working as a commercial artist for several years before becoming affiliated with Mirage Editions and Karl Bornstein. His work first appears in Playboy magazine in April of 1974. By January of 1976, Nagel's work is in every issue. When Patrick Nagel met Bornstein in 1977, Pat’s work had already graced the cover of Charlene’s Songs of Love album. (In the text of the book, Karl mentions hosting a gallery show of album cover art when he met Nagel.) Most people know Nagel's work from the Duran Duran "Rio" album cover. That image was later released as the limited edition serigraph poster "Texas." For more bio, see the end of the text below.

Mirage Editions, Inc., was Nagel's primary publisher during his life. They released prints by Nagel as limited edition graphics, limited edition serigraph posters and a few open edition lithographs. These lifetime-released prints came out starting in August of 1977, with the release of "Mirage Ship," and ended with the release of "Playboy 30th Anniversary," in December of 1983. There are a few other prints out there by other publishers. After Nagel died, suddenly in February of 1984 of a heart attack at the age of 37, Playboy Ent and Nagel's estate got into a legal dispute about the copywright ownership of the works submitted to Playboy. The end result was something of a draw, with Playboy retaining copyright of some works, the estate others. Playboy released a series of lithographs, and a few serigraphs in the "Playboy's Patrick Nagel Collection." Also the estate and Mirage Editions released a highly sucessful series of prints, titled the NC/CN series of prints. They are limited edition serigraphs, but the print run/edition sizes were significantly larger than any of the prints released while Nagel was alive.

In collaboration with Playboy, they also release two series of portofolios: Playboy Portfolio I and Playboy Portfolio II. Each set contained 4 limited edition serigraphs with an edition size of 1250 estate-signed prints.

The estate and Mirage Editions got into a dispute over the funds generated by the prints, and the estate sued Mirage. The result was Mirage Editions (who's primary cash cow was Nagel) filed for bankruptcy.

The estate released more prints, both on their own and in collaboration with Bruce McGaw Graphics. All of these were unlimited edition lithographs.



Soon after Nagel and Bornstein met, in August of 1977, Mirage Editions, Inc. releases their first limited edition serigraph poster: Nagel’s Mirage Ship. From 1977 to 1984, many Nagel limited edition serigraph posters are released. These limited edition serigraph posters are printed using the silk-screening method, meaning that for every color, a separate screen is used. These posters were printed on archival grade 100% cotton rag, usually printed in two states:

1) One state of aproximately 1000 that are signed in the screen, “s-i-s,” (which means Nagel’s signature is not done by hand, but is included in the silk-screening process), this is not “signed” in terms of art, since the artist did NOT hand sign the print.

2) Another state of aproximately 250 which are hand signed and numbered by Patrick, usually in pencil. These will not have the screen-printed signature. They are usually marked something like “122/250,” which means that the print is number 122 within the signed series of 250.

There are also prints marked “a/p,” which means “artist’s proof,” and some might be noted as “printer’s proof,” though Nagel seems to have actually written that out rather than doing what most artist did: mark it with a “p/p.”

For the posters printed by Jeff Wasserman (all of the early ones and some of the later ones), the weight of the paper is slightly heavier for the hand signed and numbered prints than it is for the unsigned (signed in screen) prints.

It is unclear whether or not Santiago Samper used heavier weight paper for the hand-signed posters or not, but based on owning both signed and unsigned (signed in screen) versions of the same Nagel posters created by Samper Silkscreen, I am inclined to believe that he did not alter the weight of the paper from signed to signed-in-screen prints.

There are also several limited edition serigraph posters that have a subset of special versions, “Just Looking,” “Mirage,” and “Papillon,” which are all hand signed and noted in pencil.

Later in Nagel’s career he started “dedicating” prints. When Patrick would have a show or make an appearance at a gallery, for a small fee, clients could have Nagel sign and date one of his prints. These dedicated prints usually include Pat’s signature, the date, and might also have a notation like “To George and Mary.” These prints are usually from the signed-in-screen (aka “unsigned”) versions of the posters.


Included within Nagel’s lifetime-released poster series, there are five unlimited edition solid plate lithographs: “Art Expo NY 1980,” “Art Expo Cal 1981,” “Art Expo NY 1981,” “Sunglasses (Black)” and “Sunglasses (Silver).” These lithographs, while unlimited, do have a set of hand signed and numbered prints.

Lithography lends itself to massive print runs, which is why it was the process employed for the creation of the unlimited edition posters. I believe each of the “Art Expo” prints were created in one very large run. These posters were distributed at their namesake art expos, and, of course, were available for sale to galleries worldwide through Mirage Editions.

“Sunglasses” (both versions) were printed and printed and printed on an as needed basis before and after Nagel died.

Lithography does not have the ability to lay down as much pigment as serigraphy, which is why these prints are more subject to fading than Nagel’s serigraphs.

I am including the lithographs within this topic even though they were intended to be unlimited. Since a limited number were signed by Nagel it makes sense to include them in this subject.


By early 1980, it was clear that there was a growing market for Patrick Nagel’s work. The limited edition serigraph posters were selling well and Mirage Editions decided to start releasing some of Nagel's images in a new format.

These prints were (usually) going to be much larger than the 17" x 25" limited edition posters, much more limited, and absent of any kind of advertising or text: these are the limited edition graphics.

The graphics are all and only about the art. They include the image, Nagel’s hand written signature, numbering notation, and possibly a border and embossment. All of them are serigraph (aka “silk-screen”) prints.

Graphic = image only, no text Poster = image and text, possibly a sponsor’s name.

With the exception of the first one, a set of four small prints titled Progressives, all of the limited edition graphics exist only as hand signed and numbered prints. Progressives, an anomaly, was created for a Nagel show at the Grunwald Center for Graphic Arts: it is the one set that includes a signed-in-screen (unsigned) set (of 1100) within the total edition of 1182.

All of the other limited edition graphics were printed in much smaller runs than the limited edition posters: Diptych has the highest edition size with a total of 280 prints; Standing Lady has the smallest edition, with only 30 prints.

The limited edition graphics were intended to be the next best thing to owning an original Nagel painting.

Between April of 1980 and January of 1984, Mirage Editions released twenty-one Patrick Nagel works as limited edition graphics. After Nagel died, Mirage and the estate released more serigraphs that technically are “limited edition graphics” titled the "Estate Editions."


No contact information

EB Art Guide

View EB Portfolio
View art for sale or trade by EB members
View art for sale on eBay that is being tracked by EB
Discuss in the Artists' Nook