Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Jewish Rebel

On the site of that wonderful photographer (and art historian), Lee Sandstead , I found this piece from, of all places, my hometown art museum.

I grew up in this museum -- since way back in the distant past my father taught sculpture in the attached art school -- and since he was the designated baby sitter, I would occasionally accompany him -- and hang out in my favorite room -- the one with the Baroque musical instruments.

Over the following 15 years, I went to the museum many times (and learned to play trombone) -- but I don't remember ever seeing the above depiction of "Eve hearing the Voice" by Moses Jacob Ezekiel (1844-1917) --- which may have then lived in the basement -- along with all the other out-of-fashion Victorian art.

Well --- Victorian is making a big comeback today -- so many of my favorite pieces have now replaced them in the subterranean hallways of cold storage.

Which is to say -- I'm still not a fan of the materialism - fleshiness - and sentimentality of the Victorian age. I want sculpture that's a little more aggressive about its space.

But it turns out that Mr. Ezekiel had a very colorful history -- as one of the first Jewish figurative sculptors since the fall of the second temple -- and a proud veteran of the Civil War -- as a rebel from Virginia !

This is indeed a strange coincidence -- since one of the new readers of this blog,
Marly Youmans has published a widely celebrated celebrated novel about the Civil War - and set it in the Shenandoah Valley -- where V.M.I. cadet Ezekiel was wounded at the Battle of New Market

Ezekiel went on to study sculpture in Germany (with some of the men mentioned by Taft , and he ended up building a studio in the ruins of the Baths of Diocletian in Rome (how I envy him !)

Perhaps his most famous piece is the C.S.A. memorial in Arlington National Cemetery -- which certainly depicts these scenes of action exactly the way I was envisioning them while reading Marly's book.

I.e. --- these are scenes that are elegant -- but they're also quite turbulent -- not heroic/idealistic like St. Gaudens' great Shaw Memorial --- so there's that feeling of "Good men in Hell" that I got from Marly's "Wolf Pit"

And he's the designer of what looks like a great monument to Edgar Allan Poe in Baltimore -- so I'm thinking that Marly may already know this sculptor quite well.

I'm feeling a commonality in Jewish sculpture -- as heavy-turbulent-ancient sadness -- running through Ezekiel -- Elkan -- Glicenstein -- and up through Milton Horn -- that's more prominent than the connections that any of them have to their countries of origin (Germany, Poland, Russia, United States)


Anonymous marly said...

That was, to me, wonderful and interesting--even had I not been included. Lovely to be tied to Poe and Ezekiel: linkages that no man dared to dream before!

Merry 2nd day of Christmas, Chris...

December 26, 2006  

Post a Comment

<< Home