See biography by L. Kirstein (1973).
Nadelman studied briefly in Warsaw and then visited Munich in 1902 where he became interested in Classical antiquities at the Glytothek. He lived in Paris from 1904 to 1914, closely involved with the avant-guarde, exhibiting at the Société des Artistes Indépendants and at the Salon d'Automne from 1905 to 1908. His first solo exhibition in 1909 at the Galerie Druet, Paris, revealed a large series of plaster and bronze classical female heads and full-length standing nudes and mannered Cubist drawings; the latter purchased by Leo Stein, who had brought Picasso to Nadelman's studio in 1908. For the most detailed and accurate studies of Nadelman's work from 1905-12, which was of crucial importance for early 20th c. modern sculpture, see Athena T. Spear in Bibliography.
He moved to the United States (becoming an American citizen in 1927) during the outbreak of World War I, married Mrs. Viola Flannery, a wealthy heiress,and assembled a large, museum quality collection of folk sculpture. At the same time, his own style was at times Classical, at times decorative, and at times a new kind of sophisticated urban folk art. He attempted to release large, inexpensive editions of his simple, classical, Tanagra-like small figures.
Eventually, as his wealth vanished in the Depression and his work failed to interest the art world, he became more peripheral to the collectors of Modernism, he did not take commissions other than portraits, his folk-art collection was sold to pay the bills. He held his last one-man exhibition in 1930 (Paris, Bernheim-Jeune). In 1935 many of his plaster figures and wood-carvings were destroyed by workmen sent to remodel his studio. Nadelman packed away all his pre-1935 work in the attic and cellar of his home in Riverdale and left it there to disintegrate. After his death on 28, December, 1946, his sculpture "Man in the Open Air", was restored and reintroduced in a retrospective at MOMA, New York. His reputation has grown since his death, and his work is in many major museums and surveys of American art history.