Willard Nash Biography

Willard Nash




Willard Ayer Nash, painter, printmaker, actor, boxer, and commercial artist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 29, 1898. As a young man he was the pupil of artist John P. Wicker at the Detroit Art School. He had been the highest paid boy soprano in the United States, acted on the Detroit stage, boxed as an amateur, and was a successful commercial artist at sixteen years old, ironically earning more money than he did as a fine artist at age thirty-nine.

He first traveled to Taos, New Mexico in 1920 to work with the painter Andrew Dasburg and he moved to Santa Fe the following year and joined a group of painters who became known as Los Cinco Pintores. Besides Nash, the group included Jozek Bakos, Fremont Ellis, Will Shuster, and Walter Mruk. It was during this decade that Nash taught at the Broadmoor Art Academy in Colorado Springs.

Nash said of himself, “I am an individualist, and a self-analytical one. I am an experimenter in art and have worked through many phases, going step by step deeper into the mysteries of esthetics.” In March 1928 Nash's work was included in The Modernists alcove show at the Museum of New Mexico. In 1932, Nash, Bakos, Dasburg, Davis, Hartley, Lockwood and Sloan were included in the Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City in 1932 and, in 1935, Nash was included in the exhibition Abstract Art in America at this same museum.

Nash worked for the WPA and completed six panels in 1934 for the University of New Mexico’s main library. In 1936, he moved to California and taught at the San Francisco Art Institute and the Art Center School of Los Angeles [now the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena].

Besides being a member of Los Cinco Pintores, Nash was a member of the American Artists Congress and the Painters and Sculptors of Los Angeles. His work is represented in the Denver Art Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the New Mexico Museum of Art, the University of New Mexico Art Museum, and the Wichita Art Museum.


According to the Albuquerque Journal, Willard Ayer Nash died from tuberculosis in Albuquerque, New Mexico at age forty-four on September 2, 1942.