Lester Nagley, Sr.
- Hancock County
- Brown County
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Artist Lester Nagley was a native of Greenfield, Indiana, where he sometimes went back to visit and paint landscapes along Brandywine. He had two children, a daughter named Betty Lou and a son named Lester Jr. Nagley graduated from Emmerich Manual Training High School in 1909 and went on to be a newspaperman in Indianapolis. He eventually moved to Brown County in 1935 when his health began to fail. It was at that point that he chose to begin work as an artist and he would go on to study under several Brown County painters.
Nagley was commonly known as “the poor artist of Brown County.” When he moved there, he claims to have had only $1.50 to his name. To survive he bunked with a friend, ate mostly wheat biscuits, and made salads out of edible grasses and wild berries. He had room to work in a private home and his studio was generally the back porch. The artist notably made woodcuts, printing them on an old washing machine wringer, and usually signed himself “The Vagabond Artist of Brown County.” When he was not painting, he worked on his own publicity and was a photographer as well. Further, he spent fifteen years writing a book, specifically a compilation of essays, titled “Interviewing God.”
The artist had exhibitions in: the home of pioneer Brown County farm dealers Mr. and Mrs. John Kirtz; the log community building in Nashville; the Hotel Washington; and shows in Greenfield and Terre Haute. Arguably, his most impressive accolade was that one of his paintings was purchased by Indiana Attorney General Omer Stokes Jackson.
[IMA Research Library Artist Files; Indianapolis News Nov. 8, 1937; Indianapolis Star May 9, 1937; Indianapolis Times Aug. 29, 1940]