Lea Nikel (Lea Nikelsberg) was born in Zhitomir, Ukraine in 1918. Her family immigrated to Palestine in 1920 and settled in Tel Aviv.
She began studying with painter Chaim Gliksberg in Tel Aviv in 1935, later studying with Yechezkel Streichman and Avigdor Steimatsky.
From 1961 to 1977, Nikel lived in Greenwich Village (one year), Rome (three years) and New York (four years), before returning to Israel in 1977.
Nikel held her first solo exhibition at Chemerinsky Art Gallery in Tel Aviv and her first solo show in Paris at Galerie Colette Allendy in 1957. She took part in numerous international group exhibitions, including the Venice Biennale in 1964.
The Tel Aviv Museum of Art organized a retrospective exhibition of her paintings in 2005.
Nikel’s style was a form of expressionistic abstraction sometimes called lyrical abstraction. She painted with a brusque, generous touch and favored high-keyed colors. She was known for buoyant compositions consisting of rough-edged blocks of color and scribbly, calligraphic lines that together conveyed a sense of imaginative excitement and urgent sensuousness.
Nikel continued to paint until just a few days before her death. She Died September 10th, 2005.