Growing up poor in New York City, Nat Krate had no toys as child. His only sources of enjoyment were pencil and paper.
“And that allowed me to enter a world of my own; a private place,” Krate says. His first drawings were typically of horses.
Krate’s mother died when he was 11, and his father was absent, so he lived with various relatives. He went to eight different elementary schools and was always the outsider.
“You never thought about being hungry, this was the world that you knew,” he says. “And it wasn’t till much later on that you realize there are other worlds — better worlds.”
Now at age 94, Krate feels he has lived a fulfilled life. He has experienced “better worlds.” He believes he has accomplished every achievement of which he has dreamed. One of his many accomplishments is developing a talent for realist painting of florals and nudes. His works have made an impression on Sarasota.
On Dec. 5, he led 21 of his fellow residents of The Fountains to Art Center Sarasota to view the exhibit in which one of his pieces is featured, “Artists Who Made Sarasota Famous II.”
In May, Krate wouldn’t have imagined such a feat could occur. In the spring he entered into hospice, after suffering with medical issues for years. He takes a long pause when talking about the experience.
“It’s hard for me to talk about,” he says.
Remarkably, he was taken out of hospice care Aug. 28, just two days after his birthday — a wonderful gift. After months spent regaining his strength, it took a great deal of determination to lead the group to view the exhibit.
Krate’s featured oil painting was “Survival After de Kooning.” In his trademark style, it features a nude woman juxtaposed in front of a print of de Kooning’s art. At first glance it looks like a photograph of a nude woman standing in front of a work of art, but it’s a painting.
The work she’s standing in front of is a reproduction of a de Kooning piece that represents a mutilated woman. Paired with the model, it’s intended to tell a story.
“A painter can murder a woman on canvas, but a man in today’s world gets sued for sexual harassment if he accidentally touches a woman (the wrong way),” Krate explains.
To him, the female figure has always been the most beautiful creation, which is why he has featured them in his works. Through his art, he has told stories about his feelings on love, relationships and other aspects of the world.
“I used brush and paint where others might use a typewriter or pen and paper,” he says.
Although his artistic talent is evident, his first career wasn’t as a professional artist.
Before his career as a painter, Krate owned an advertising agency. In 1980, after 30 years, he wanted a change. His wife, Helen, encouraged him to develop a hobby.
“A hobby became a full-blown profession,” he says. “And, to my great surprise, people liked my work and wanted to buy it. So, for another 30 years, we had a wonderful journey in the world of art.”
At first, he says it was hard for him to sell his work; his paintings were akin to his children.
“I never anticipated a life in the arts,” Helen Krate says. “ … of course, living with such a genius is quite an experience. It’s just so wonderful.”
One of Krate’s favorite pieces is a portrait he did of Helen that hangs above their kitchen table. It’s a reminder and testament to his life fulfilled. He says living alongside his wife, friend and companion is all that he has ever dreamed.
“Love is the best medicine that you could possibly obtain — for health and mental purposes,” he says.