Heralded as the “Dean of New Orleans Artists”, Paul Ninas has been widely exhibited locally, nationally, and internationally throughout his life and today. He studied art in Vienna, Florence, and Paris in the 1920’s, receiving his Master of Fine Arts degree in 1925 from the Vienna Royal Academy. In 1926 he was one of the first Americans honored with an exhibition at a Paris gallery. At the 1939 New York World's Fair in the Contemporary Arts Exhibition, his painting was one of only three singled out in the "New Yorker" magazine. He also spent several years painting in Martinique and Dominica in the West Indies before moving to New Orleans, where he was influential in the development of the modern art scene from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. His commissioned murals from 1939 can be viewed in New Orleans at the Sazerac Bar in the Fairmont Hotel, and at Kingsley House. More recently his works have been collected by the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Louisiana State Museum, the Roger Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and the Morris Museum.
In work that includes pencil drawings, mixed media drawings, and oil paintings, Ninas employs a unique form of cubism that has been labeled the “line-and-plane technique”, consisting of an interaction of flat forms that are separated by dark lines. While no two forms share the same planes, creating a flatness that lends itself to a slight abstraction of his subjects, the objects in his work are easily recognizable due to his heavy use of dark outlines and bright colors. Few of his works emphasize his style as much as New Orleans Wharf, which involves a motif of boat bows and masts, each separated by dark lines and highlighted by bright reds and yellows. In this oil painting from 1960, Ninas offers a unique perspective on the abundance of boats that are a part of New Orleans.
A native of Missouri, Paul Ninas traveled extensively as a young man, going to sea at age 14. He lived in New Orleans from 1932 until his death in 1964, in which time he taught at the Arts and Craft School, at Tulane University School of Architecture, and privately.