Born in Chicago. Grows up in extended Russian-Jewish immigrant family. As a child, goes to movies up to six times a week.


Parents move briefly to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where Natkin decides he wants to become an artist.


Studies at the Art School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he is strongly influenced by the collection of Post-Impressionist paintings. Encounters Abstract Expressionism in 1949 through an article in Life magazine. Makes frequent visits to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago where he studies decorative arts.


Lives briefly in New York, deeply influenced by Willem de Kooning’s paintings.


Stays in San Francisco for a couple of months.


Lives again in Chicago. Distraught, resumes psychotherapeutic treatment. Obtains job in the Newbury Library. Teaches painting classes. Exhibits occasionally in group shows and in one-man studio and shop-front exhibitions. Becomes closely associated with other Chicago artists, including Richard Bogart, Ernest Dieringer, Judith Dolnick, Ann Mattingly, Stanley Sourelis, Ronald Slowinski, Gerald van de Wiele, and Donald Vlack – a loose grouping distinguishable from the “Monster Roster” Chicago expressionists on the one hand and from the Bauhaus-influenced formalists on the other.


Marries Judith Dolnick. Opens the Wells Street Gallery in Chicago with the work of the above-mentioned group; these artists, including Natkin, are prominent in Chicago’s 1957 Momentum exhibition.


Has one-man show at the Wells Street Gallery.


Closing of the Wells Street Gallery. In January Natkin moves to New York where he begins exhibiting with the Pointdexter Gallery.


Birth of son, J.P. Included in the Young America exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.


First emergence of characteristic Apollo, that is, markedly vertical-pictorial organization.


Included in several group exhibitions. Birth of daughter, Leda.


Efflorescence of the early Apollo painting series.


Appointment as artist-in-residence, Kalamazoo Arts Center. This is a disturbed period in the artist’s life, characterized in his painting by the eruption of markedly symmetrical organizations.


In part under the influence of jazz singers–especially women vocalists like Nina Simone and Billie Holliday–Natkin produces a series of hard-edged, architectural Apollos and grid paintings, although the freer varieties do not disappear altogether. Grids persist until circa 1969. Teaches at the Pratt Institute.


Begins Field Mouse paintings.


Is included in the exhibition Timeless Paintings from the USA at the Galerie Facchetti, Paris. Makes his first trip to Europe.


Retrospective solo exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Art.


Field Mouse series becomes increasingly important in Natkin’s work, changing from delicate nuance to much bolder and richer colors and forms. The Natkin family leaves New York to set up home in the country in West Redding, Connecticut.


Discovers technique of painting with different textured cloths wrapped around sponges. Eruption of the Intimate Lighting series. Is influenced by Cubist exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum. First exhibition with the André Emmerich Gallery, New York.


Full efflorescence of the Intimate Lighting series.


Visits England prior to exhibition at the Festival Gallery and Holburne of Menstrie Museum in Bath. Soon after begins the Bath series, involving muting of colors.


The Face series begins. The Apollos, which have been in abeyance for a number of years, are spectacularly revived. Natkin executes a commission for a giant mural at Baxter Laboratories Corporate Headquarters, Chicago.


Retrospective exhibition of Natkin’s work at Moore College of Art Gallery, Philadelphia.


Around the time of his visit to the Klee Foundation, Natkin begins to produce a new series of works, the Bern paintings–many on paper–in which he endeavors to “recapture the expressionism of [his] youth.”


BBC documentary on Robert Natkin, directed by Mike Dibb. Takes up writing on a regular basis, including art criticism for Modern Painters and The New York Observer as well as catalogue introductions for fellow artists.


Executes a mural at 1211 Avenue of the Americas, Rockefeller Center, New York.


Gives Peter Fuller lecture at the Tate Gallery, London. Executes a mural at the Millennium Hotel, New York.


Gives a lecture at Maryland Institute, College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland.


Honorary Chairperson for Scholarship Fund, Art School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


Makes monotypes at Bradley University.