Robert Natkin was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1930; his father was a rag dealer and so bleak was the Chicago neighborhood in which he was born that it left him with a lasting sense of esthetic deprivation, a fact that probably accounts for the almost pretty profusion of colors in his present canvases. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he was most influenced by the Post-Impressionist collection. A painter of intensely colorful abstraction, Robert Natkin does work that often runs in series including Apollo Series of the 1960s. These works, with vertical stripes alternating between thick and thin, decorative and textured, are cheerful and light, invoking the lyricism of Apollo, the Greek god of poetry and light. His style derives from both decorative Oriental and primitive art and illusionist painting.
Natkin graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1952. He married painter Judith Dolnick, and they lived in Chicago where Natkin and a friend opened the Wells Street Gallery to give young Chicago artists a chance to market their artwork. The gallery operated from 1957 to 1959. He was part of the Whitney Museum exhibit titled "Americans Under 35", and during the late 1950s held one-man shows in Los Angeles, Boston, and Philadelphia.