Dr. Robert A. Nelson

Dr. Robert A. Nelson at his home studio. Photo courtesy of Karen Anderer.

Robert A. Nelson, a former Millersville University art professor and working artist who exhibited internationally, died Dec. 2 in his home in Lakeside, Oregon. He was 96.

According to a statement from his Karen Anderer of Karen Anderer Fine Art Gallery in Lancaster and Nelson’ wife Louise Schintz-Nelson, Nelson had recently recovered from a breakthrough infection of COVID-19, which had left his heart in a weakened state.

Nelson is survived by his 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.

Nelson studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. He later taught at his alma mater, as well as at Cleveland State University, Winnipeg University and Millersville University — the lattermost of which where he was awarded professor emeritus status in 1997.

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. Nelson, who was born on in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Aug. 1, 1925, worked on his art every day even into the last weeks of his life.

“I’m always here in front of the drawing board,” Nelson said in an interview with LNP | LancasterOnline from October of this year.

Nelson exhibited his work locally at the Karen Anderer Fine Art Gallery in Lancaster. Anderer worked closely with Nelson for more than a decade.

“I am so fortunate to have worked side-by-side for 12 years with Bob. He was my inspiration, my marvel, and most of all my friend,” Anderer wrote in an email. “I will continue to work tirelessly to tell the world about Robert A. Nelson and share his legacy.” 

Nelson’s last show “Animals” recently closed at Karen Anderer Fine Art, though some of his works are still on view there. The exhibit featured a selection of recent work and pieces from Nelson’s extensive vault.

“This latest collection of new work has surpassed my wildest expectations,” Anderer said during a phone call for the October story on Nelson’s “Animals” exhibit. “Not only is it the best work I have ever exhibited of his, it was done at the age of 96. He just keeps getting better; more detail, more precision, stronger coloring, more layers to his stories — much more complex, like himself, I suppose.”

Anderer says a documentary about Nelson’s life and work is currently in production with Natural Light Films.

Nelson was the primary artist at Karen Ander Fine Art, and Anderer was his only representation for the last 12 years.

“I don’t know where I’d be without him,” says Anderer.

A celebration of life event for Nelson will be announced through Karen Anderer Fine Art.

Nelson's October conversation with LNP | LancasterOnline was the artist's last-ever interview, which can be read here.

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