A native of Dayton, Ohio, Patrick Nagel was a graphic artist who incorporated idealized images of women in lush, 2D settings that tended to call to mind a particularly sybaritic mutation of Art Deco. His images are well-nigh synonymous with the decade of the 1980s and are especially associated with the band Duran Duran, because the band used one of Nagel’s images on its 2nd LP, 1982’s Rio. His images frequently appeared in Playboy. There’s a vague mental association between Nagel’s work and über-yuppie Patrick Bateman, the protagonist of American Psycho, book and movie both.
Sadly, Nagel scarcely had time to enjoy the wider recognition that his association with Duran Duran brought him, as he was found dead of a myocardial infarction heart attack on February 4, 1984.
Success is seldom an unalloyed good. Even as it elevates an artist into widespread visibility, it might equally well consign the work to an artistic ghetto in the same act. You might get big, but there’s no saying that you won’t get typecast or pigeonholed or called tacky in the process.
The particular ghetto that Nagel’s work landed in is indisputably the general category of beauty salons, including nail salons and tanning salons. There’s something about Nagel’s frank invocation of conventional and affluent (and white) beauty that appears to have resonated with the advertisers within that sector, to the point that it has stopped being a signifier of the 1980s, at least in that setting. One might say that every beauty salon has a piece of Nagel art around somewhere—and if it doesn’t, it should have one.
Many of the “Nagel” images you see in beauty salons aren’t by Nagel at all, of course. Paying royalties to famous artists is nobody’s idea of a good time. In the middle of this post you can see an authentic product of Nagel’s artistry. I’m not a forensic art expert, but it’s clear enough that most if not all of the other images here are, erm, “heavily influenced” by Nagel. Indeed, it’s likely that an attorney insisted on it.
This post owes a debt to the person behind the Trashy Salon Art Tumblr.