1902 Born in Berlin on 11 June.
1915 Nay enters the boarding school of Schulpforta in Thuringia, beginning interest in modern art and first attempts at painting.
1921 High school diploma in Schulpforta and return to Berlin; starts apprenticeship for the book trade at the bookshop Gsellius in Berlin, paints in his free time.
1922 Breaks off his apprenticeship, paints his first self-portrait.
1924 Nay paints his first self-taught landscapes and portraits and presents three of his paintings to Carl Hofer at the Akademie für bildende Künste, Berlin and receives a
scholarship at the Akademie für bildende Künste, where he attends the painting class of Carl Hofer.
1927 Nay becomes Hofer’s "Meisterschüler" and receives his own studio at the academy.
First participations in group exhibitions and first acquisition of a landscape painting by the Provinzial-Museum in Hannover.
Paul Westheim, publisher of the periodical "Das Kunstblatt" notices Nay and writes about him.
1928 Ends his studies at the Akademie für bildende Künste.
He travels for studies to Paris.
1931 Acquisition of two paintings by the Nationalgalerie Berlin, Kronprinzenpalais and the Museum Behnhaus in Lübeck.
Nay receives the Prix de Rome, followed by a nine month’s scholarship at the Villa Massimo, Rome, where he creates surrealistic-abstract paintings (October 1931 - June 1932).
1932 On his return journey to Berlin he meets in Munich the art dealer Günther Franke, who from then on promotes his art.
Nay marries Helene (Elly) Kirchner in Berlin.
1933 Nay paints a series of animal paintings in an abstracted manner.
Participates in the exhibition "Living German Art" at Galerie Flechtheim and Galerie Cassirer in Berlin.
One of his paintings "Liebespaar" is being ridiculed as a "masterpiece of ugliness" in an article against modern art by the National Socialists published in the "Völkische Beobachter" on February 25, 1933.
1934 Meets Erich Meyer, Alfred Hentzen, Werner Haftmann and Ernst Gosebruch, who had been dismissed as director of the Museum Folkwang, Essen by the National Socialists in 1933.
Journey to the Baltic Sea, starts working on the theme of "dunes and fishermen" (1934-36).
1935 Spends the summer at the Baltic Sea, creates numerous reed pen drawings of fishermen and upon his return to his studio in Berlin paintings of "dunes and fishermen".
1937 One-man exhibition at Galerie Buchholz, Berlin, curated by Curt Valentin.
Ten of his paintings are seized and removed from museums by the National Socialists. Two paintings "Fischerboote an der Hafenmole" und "Fischerdorf Teju auf Bornholm" are shown in the exhibition "Entartete Kunst" in Munich.
Carl Georg Heise, dismissed director of the museum in Lübeck, asks his friend Edvard Munch for financial support, which allows Nay to travel to Norway and to visit Munch in Skojen near Oslo. Nay spends three months on the Lofot Islands, where he lives in Svolvaer, Stamsund, Eggum and Reine and starts to work on watercolours. Upon his return to his studio in Berlin he creates his "Lofoten"-paintings (1937-1938). Nay becomes fully aware of the significance of colour.
1938 During the winter of 1937/38 Galerie Holst Halvorsen in Oslo exhibits Nay’s "Lofot" watercolours. The proceeds allow him a second trip to the Lofot Islands, where he does further watercolours and a series of four woodcuts.
Participation in the exhibition "Modern German Art" in Springfield, Massachusetts.
1939 Visits art collector Hanna Bekker vom Rath in Hofheim/Taunus, meets Alexej Jawlensky in Wiesbaden.
1940 Mobilization, infantryman in Southern France, later in Brittany, stationed at Auray. In his free time he works on small watercolours and drawings.
1942 Summoned to Le Mans as map-maker. Contacts with French intellectuals. Amateur-sculptor Pierre Thérouanne offers him the use of his studio, where he works on first gouaches and oil paintings.
1943 Exhibition of gouaches, watercolours and drawings in the hidden back room of Galerie Günther Franke in Munich.
Nay visits Kandinsky on a duty trip to Paris. Receives a visit by Ernst Jünger in Le Mans. Bombing destroys Nay’s studio in Berlin.
1945 Dismissed from the army by the Americans in May. With the help of Hanna Bekker vom Rath he finds a small studio in Hofheim/Taunus near Frankfurt am Main, where he creates the first of the "Hekate"-paintings (1945-48), named after the painting "Hekate’s Daughter". Meets Ernst Holzinger, director of the Städelsche Kunstinstitut in Frankfurt am Main
1946 First post-war exhibitions at Galerie Günther Franke in Munich and at Galerie Gerd Rosen in Berlin
1947 Exhibitions at Galerie Ernst Vömel, Düsseldorf and Galerie Dr. Werner Rusche, Köln, and Galerie Franz, Berlin, and at Kunstverein Hamburg and Overbeck-Gesellschaft, Lübeck
1948 Meets collectors Günther and Carola Peill, Bernhard Sprengel, Herbert Kurz and Karl Ströher, first participation in the Venice Biennale
1949 Divorces his first wife after four years of separation. Marries Elisabeth Kerschbaumer
Starts to work on his "Fugale" paintings (1949-51).
A series of ten colour lithographs is published by Michael Hertz in Bremen
Exhibition at the Städtische Kunsthalle, Mannheim (with Fritz Winter)
1950 First large-scale paintings
First retrospective exhibition after the war at the Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hannover, Participation in the International Exhibition of the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh
1951 For the first time after the war back in Berlin, Nay meets sculptor Hans Uhlmann and his wife and the art critic and author Will Grohmann, moves to Cologne in October
A selection of his work from the Haubrich collection, Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne, is exhibited at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in the show "Expressionism"
1952 The "Rhythmic paintings" 1952-53 mark his definite conversion to abstract painting
Retrospective exhibition at Haus am Waldsee, Berlin
1953 Nay works on an abstract film "Eine Melodie - Vier Maler" by Herbert Seggelke, together with Jean Cocteau, Gino Severini and Hans Erni
In autumn he lectures as a guest professor at the Landeskunstschule in Hamburg
Exhibitions at the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf; Overbeck-Gesellschaft, Lübeck; Kunstverein, Bremen and Frankfurter Kunstverein Steinernes Haus, Frankfurt am Main
1954 During his summer stay in Løkken, Denmark, he works on large-scale watercolours. In his "discpaintings" (1954-62) round shapes in endless variations become the leading motif.
In the exhibition "German art after 1945", successively shown in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven, Nay is represented with three paintings.
1955 Publishes his manifesto ‘Vom Gestaltwert der Farbe" (Prestel Verlag, Munich). Receives Lichtwark-Award of the Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg.
Participations in the Documenta I in Kassel and the Biennale in Sao Paulo;
first one-man exhibition in New York at Kleemann Galleries,
exhibitions at Kunstverein, Hamburg and Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hannover.
1956 Receives the grand award for painting of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Represents the Federal Republic of Germany at the Venice Biennale. Participation in exhibition "Hundred Years of German Painting" at the Tate Gallery in London.
Creates the large wall painting "Das Freiburger Bild" (2,55 m x 6,55 m) for the Chemical Institute of the University of Freiburg/Breisgau.
Becomes member of the Akademie der Künste, Berlin.
Exhibition at Locke Gallery, San Francisco, CA.
1957 Rents a studio in Paris and prints a series of five colour aquatints at Georges Visat, edited by Michael Hertz.
During the summer short trip to Madrid.
Participates in the exhibition "German Art of the 20th Century" at The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
1958 First trip to New York for a second one-man show at Kleemann Galleries.
Exhibits at the World Fair in Brussels in exhibition "50 ans d’art moderne";
exhibition at the Haus der Kunst, Munich: "München 1869-1958: Aufbruch zur modernen Kunst".
Further stay in Paris, where he again works on colour aquatints and a few paintings.
1959 Retrospective exhibition at the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf.
Participation at the Documenta II, Kassel with his "Freiburger Bild" and other paintings.
Travels to Mykonos, where he creates watercolours.
1960 Retrospective exhibition at Kunsthalle Basel (with Willi Baumeister).
Werner Haftmann publishes the first Nay monograph (DuMont Schauberg, Köln).
Nay receives the Guggenheim International Award, German section.
First one-man exhibition at the New London Gallery, London.
During the summer he creates watercolours in Ischia.
1961 Nay meets art dealer Harry A. Brooks, New York.
Fritz Usinger publishes his book on "Ernst Wilhelm Nay".
Nay is represented in the exhibition "Polarity: the apollonian and the dionysian in art" in the Städtische Kunsthalle in Recklinghausen and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
During the summer he works on watercolours in Mykonos.
1962 Travels to New York, Washington D.C. and Boston.
One-man exhibition at Knoedler Galleries, New York.
Large retrospective on occasion of Nay’s sixtieth birthday at the Museum Folkwang in Essen.
During the summer he works on watercolours in Ischia.
1963 Nay starts to work on his "Augenbilder" ("Eye"-Paintings). Again he travels to New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles und Mexico, where he visits Paul Westheim.
One-man exhibition at Galerie Günther Franke, Munich, on occasion of "40 years Galerie Günther Franke".
1964 At the instigation of Arnold Bode Nay creates three large paintings for the Documenta III in Kassel. They are unusually presented – hanging on the ceiling - one behind the other
(cat. nos. 38-49).
One-man show at Knoedler’s in New York and Paris.
Exhibitions at Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster; Kunstverein Hamburg, Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe; Frankfurter Kunstverein Steinernes Haus and drawings show "1. Internationale der Zeichnung", Mathildenhöhe, Darmstadt.
Participation in the exhibition "German Art of Today", Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam.
During the summer Nay works on watercolours in Mykonos.
1965 During the winter 1964/65 Nay develops the characteristic elements of his late work – the period of his "Late Paintings" begins.
During the summer he creates watercolours in Crete.
In autumn a series of six colour aquatints, titled "Über den Menschen", is printed at Georges Visat in Paris and published by Wolfgang Ketterer, Munich.
1966 Travels to Marocco, New York, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Japan, Hongkong.
Retrospective exhibition opens in the Württembergische Kunstverein, Stuttgart and is successively shown (1967) at the Akademie der Künste, Berlin, the Städtische Kunsthalle,
Mannheim and the Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts in Vienna.
1967 Exhibits his recent work at Galerie im Erker, Sankt Gallen, where he prints four lithographs at Erker-Presse.
During the summer he works on watercolours in Ronchi, Italy and in Bavaria. Receives the order to create a large ceramic wall design (3,30 x 9,35 m) for the casino of the Centre for
Atomic Research in Karlsruhe.
1968 In February last trip to Berlin.
Nay finishes his design for the ceramic wall painting for the Centre for Atomic Research in Karlsruhe.
In early April he creates his last painting "Weiß-Schwarz-Gelb" in three variations. On April 8, Ernst Wilhelm Nay dies from heart failure in his studio in Cologne.