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Norman Mailer (1923-2007) lived a life larger than the fiction (and most of the non-fiction) for which he was famous. He was a man of wide ranging and provocative inclinations, most notably in his literary, political and personal life.

“It could be said that Norman Mailer was a man and a writer halfway between fame and infamy and yet with little in the way of middle ground. He was, in varying combinations, a world-class drinker, feuder, provocateur, self-mythologizer and anti-feminist. He was a war protester, a mayoral candidate, a co-founder of The Village Voice, as well as a wife stabber, a serial husband (of six wives), and a father (of nine). He was a boxer, an actor, a filmmaker, a poet and a playwright. He was also a journalist and a novelist of enormous and singular narrative inventiveness and thrust, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and one of the least boring and most tireless and tiresome public figures of the last half of the 20th century.” (J. Michael Lennon, Norman Mailer: A Double Life [2013])

He was largely unknown as an artist however, even though he was personally quite proud of his drawings. Here on POBA, we see an entirely new way in which Mailer viewed the world and showed us his world. Inspired by Picasso, Norman Mailer’s art is sarcastic, insightful, whimsical, witty, and highly impressionistic, a vivid contrast to the sharp-edged, flamboyant, cynical, and imaginatively messy worlds he portrayed in his writings.

Norman Mailer was born as Nachem Malek in 1923 in Long Branch, NJ. He spent most of his youth living in Brooklyn, NY before he studied at Harvard. Upon graduation, he served in the Philippines during World War II, which served as the inspiration for his first (semi-autobiographical) book, The Naked and the Dead in 1948. From then on, he was never out of the limelight. He published more than 30 books, including two that won Pulitzer Prizes, The Armies of the Night (1968) and The Executioner’s Song (1979). He also famously co-founded the Village Voice newspaper, a catalyst for his quasi-journalistic style in writing both fiction and non-fiction. Even until the end of his life, he was writing; his last novel, The Castle in the Forest, ranked #5 on The New York Times’ best-seller list in early 2007. Mailer was working on a sequel when he died November 2007 in New York City.

Equally, in the last decades of his life, he was also drawing prolifically. That collection is seen here for the first time. It is arguably the only “middle ground” between fame and infamy Mailer created during his extraordinary life.

Norman Mailer's Portfolios