Lea Nikel was born in Ukraine in 1918, immigrated to Palestine when she was two years old. She grew up in Tel Aviv, studied with Gliksberg, Steimatsky and Streichman. To continue her studies she travelled to Paris where she lived and worked between 1950-1961, a determinant decade in the history of postwar European art. Nikel was involved in the artistic and social life and in the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Paris.
Since the 60's she lived intermittently in Israel, New York, France and in the last years of the decade in Rome. Between 1973 and 1977 Nikel worked in New York, living at the Chelsea Hotel, a well-known hotel and studio with a reputable position in the history of New York art. From there she returned to Jaffa. Later on she built her home with her spouse Sam Leiman in Moshav Kidron.
Nikel is one of the distinctive representatives of the second generation of the abstract painters that were also known as the “Abstract Expressionists”. Her paintings are characterized by colorfulness, vitality and spontaneity. The main elements in her work are color and materiality and they have formed her unique personal stamp. Nikel uses many varied techniques: paintbrush, scraping, carving, finger painting, dripping and collage.
Nikel is the winner of Israel Prize for painting in 1995. She was awarded many important prizes such as: Dizengoff Prize on behalf of the Tel Aviv Municipality, Gamzu Prize from the Tel Aviv Museum, an honorary doctorate from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, a medal from UNESCO for her activity as well as the Chevalier of Arts and Letters Award by the French Minister of Culture.
She held many solo and group exhibitions in galleries and museums all over Israel and in the major cities around the world: Retrospective in the Tel Aviv Museum, in the Israel Museum Jerusalem, the Haifa Museum, galleries and museums in Paris, in The Netherlands, New York, London, Japan and more. She represented Israel in the Johannesburg Biennale, South Africa, in the 32nd Biennale in Venice in 1964 and in the Biennale in Chile.
Lea Nikel passed away on September 2005.