Ralph Nagel's colorful world on display in Littleton

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The Changing Gallery at the Littleton Museum is filled with images that reflect the vision of painter Ralph Nagel, winner of Best of Show in the 2012 Own an Original show sponsored by Littleton's Fine Arts Board. Each year, the OAO winner is invited to hang a solo show at the museum, and Nagel exhibits 42 watercolors and oils through Oct. 27.

The 2012 juror was well-known Englewood artist Sandra Kaplan, who chose Nagel's sunlit “Pine Needle Branch, Provence” as the best artwork in the large show. It is included in the current exhibit, as are a selection of watercolors and three oil paintings.

On the right wall, as a visitor faces into the gallery, one finds a group of handsome, extra-large watercolors of Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, a location made famous by Georgia O'Keeffe in years past. Note “Land Forms at Ghost Ranch.”

He captures the desert colors and rock forms in his own distinctive style, with brushstrokes that look deceptively free.

Controlling this difficult medium on such a large surface required very specific planning and careful brushwork--and a considerable amount of experience.

Nagel began to paint while still a businessman, founder and owner of the Meridian Retirement Communities. He has degrees in architecture and city planning and is a widely traveled plein air painter. He paints sketches on-site and translates some to larger canvas or paper in his own studio. All have a spontaneous quality and clear contrast in dark and light.

He co-founded Studio 208, a group of Colorado artists who painted and showed together from 2004 to 2008. From 2007 to 2011, he hosted a collaborative teaching space in the River North District (RINO).

A philanthropist with his wife Trish, they are responsible for the Nagel Art Studios, Nagel Residence Hall and Collection and renovation of the College of Arts and Media at the University of Denver. They have also underwritten one of the new play productions of the Denver Center Theatre Company: “Just Like Us,” which will open soon in the 2013-2014 season.

Nagel's paintings have been exhibited at the Loveland Art Museum, Foothills Art Center, Colorado Capitol and Arapahoe Community College.