Nagel Hall Art Collection

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Location: Southwest of Anderson Academic Commons

University of Denver trustee Ralph Nagel gifted a stunning collection of original paintings and watercolors to the university specifically for installation in Nagel Hall, DU’s newest residency building named in his honor. The vision for the Collection is to improve the undergraduate experience through daily exposure to paintings inspired by nature, including a sampling of landscapes, still life, and abstract works.

A number of the artists included in the Collection paint in a group called Studio 208, which Ralph Nagel co-founded with artist Boris Shoshensky. Most of the painters are based in Colorado; many are inspired by late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century styles, including Impressionism and Cubism. These are styles in which representations of things “as they are” blend with other features—especially the bold use of color—to draw attention to the painted surface itself. A significant number of the paintings were created in the outdoors, in the “plein air” tradition of French and American Impressionist painters.

The first students moved into Nagel Hall in the fall of 2008; since that time, the collection has grown to the point at which artwork has been placed throughout its remarkable five-story study tower, among the ground floor public areas, and in the Garden Level dining area. Unlike other art placed on campus, the works are not completely accessible to the public, since many are located within the secured residential areas. They are committed to the building for the long term, and we hope they will help make the residential experience memorable for years to come.

Quick facts

  • Nagel Hall is the newest residence hall on campus, and houses primarily juniors and seniors.
  • When Nagel Hall was built, the intention was for the student experience to be enhanced by artwork. Ralph Nagel preferred that the art not be shown behind glass, as a vote of confidence in the maturity of the students.
  • There are more than two dozen works in the building, almost all by Colorado plein air artists, including Nagel himself.
  • You can see the extent to which Nagel wanted art to be integrated into the lives of students in the placement of Craig Smith’s painting, which is actually an abstraction of the building, and which is hung amidst flyers and right next to the elevator.
  • Marsha Wooley is a local Colorado artist. She teaches a course in plein-air painting annually through Arapahoe Community College, and is represented in Denver by the Robischon Gallery.
  • A cell phone audio tour is also available; numbers can be found on the object labels students can call if they would like to hear more information about the works, including interviews with the artists.
Wooley, Marsha. Balancing Rock,  oil on canvas, 60x96" photo by Bill O'Connor
Wooley, Marsha. Balancing Rock, oil on canvas, 60×96″photo by Bill O’Connor

Marsha Wooley, Balancing Rock, 2007, oil on canvas




Craig Marshall Smith, Nagel Spire No. 4, 2008, Oil on canvas, 48 x 28 in.

Craig Marshall Smith, Nagel Spire No. 4, 2008, Oil on canvas, 48 x 28 in.

Location: Ground Level Dining Area

“I will not set up an arrow-pierced steer in formaldehyde. I buy tubes of oil paint, brushes, and canvases, and I paint.”

Craig Marshall Smith writes that his is not a new voice. “I paint the way others have. What I paint is in debt to architectural blueprints, Asian calligraphy, and a lifetime of observation, right down to the pressure of the brush stroke and the beauty in an ellipsis.” The artist has lived in Colorado since 1977. He studied with Richard Diebenkorn at UCLA, but his greatest inspiration and mentor was the painter and printmaker Jan Stüssy. After graduating, he began a teaching career spanning thirty years (1973–2003) at UC Santa Barbara, Arizona State, and Metropolitan State College of Denver, where he was the drawing coordinator for 26 years. In late 2000, Craig Marshall Smith decided to cease figurative drawing and painting and began, in his words, to devote himself “to the trenches that were dug by Kandinsky, Kline, Motherwell, de Kooning, and Diebenkorn.”

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