In 1921, Nay trains as a bookseller. In 1923 he attends a course in drawing from the nude at Berlin's applied arts school, the Kunstgewerbeschule. In 1924 he is accepted into Karl Hofer's class at Berlin's Academy. In 1926 and 1927 he has his first exhibitions in group shows. In 1927 and 1928 he is in Hofer's master class. In 1928 he takes a study trip to Paris. In 1930 he has a stay on the Danish island of Bornholm, in 1931 a study sojourn in the Villa Massimo in Rome. From 1934 to 1936 he spends summer vacations on the Baltic Sea. In 1937 he spends time in Oslo and on the Lofoten Islands at the invitation of Edvard Munch. In 1939 he meets Hanna Bekker vom Rath and Alexej Jawlensky. From 1940 to 1945 he performs military service. He visits Wassily Kandinsky in Paris. In 1945 he has an atelier in Hofheim in the Taunus region. In 1950 a retrospective is shown in the Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hannover, and another in 1955. He moves to Cologne in 1951. The year 1955 sees works of his at the 'documenta 1' in Kassel (as well as at subsequent ones) and 'Biennale São Paulo'. In 1956 he takes his first trip to New York on the occasion of a second exhibition at the Kleemann Galerie. In 1959 he journeys through Sicily. In 1966 he travels to Morocco, America, Hong Kong and Japan.