DescriptionMAX KALISH (American, 1891-1945)
The Structural Steel Worker, 1926
Bronze with brown patina
18-3/4 inches (47.6 cm) high on a 3/4 inches (1.9 cm) high marble base
Inscribed on base: M. Kalish 26
Stamped along the base: MERONI RADICE / CIRE / PERDUE / PARIS
PROPERTY FROM A PROMINENT CLEVELAND, OHIO FAMILY
(Possibly) Korner and Wood, Cleveland, Ohio, circa 1926-27;
William R. Hopkins (1869-1961), noted Cleveland, Ohio politician and industrialist, until 1961;
David J. Hopkins, Esq., nephew of the above, Cleveland, Ohio, by descent, 1961 until circa 1980-82;
Thence by descent in the family.
"Walt Whitman of Sculpture," New York Post, November 19, 1926 (another example illustrated);
New York Herald Tribune, review of Kalish exhibition at Feragil Galleries, New York, November 28, 1926 (another example illustrated);
"Apollo of the Sky-Scrapers," The Literary Digest, December 18, 1926 (another example illustrated);
The Plain Dealer, review of Kalish exhibition at Korner and Wood, Cleveland, Ohio, December 5, 1926 (another example illustrated);
Detroit News, review of Kalish exhibition at Hanna-Thompson Galleries, Detroit, Michigan, January 16, 1927 (another example illustrated);
N. Lawson Lewis, The Sculpture of Max Kalish, Cleveland, Ohio, 1933, n.p., pl. 30 (another example illustrated);
E. Genauer, Labor Sculpture by Max Kalish, New York, 1938, n.p., pl. 29 (another example illustrated).
During the early months of 1926, the Polish-born American sculptor Max Kalish was in Paris bringing to fruition a body of work that would eventually secure his reputation as one of the most important American sculptors of his time--a series of bronze laborers. Most of the figures were associated with the steel industry and steel construction work, and the artist's specific models for these sculptures were Clevelanders. Kalish drafted them personally from the American Steel and Wire Company (Cleveland News, November 20, 1927) to pose for him, so that the physiques depicted in his sculptures were in every way appropriate to the tasks being portrayed. After creating original circa 18-inch models of his riveter, structural steel worker, lineman, sledge driver and other workers in Cleveland, Kalish transported them to Paris to be cast into bronze at the expert foundry, Meroni Radice. He then shipped the bronzes back to the United States for exhibition in late 1926. The laborers were first shown in Cleveland at Kalish's dealer, Korner and Wood Gallery on Euclid Boulevard, before embarking on a multi-city tour to major industrial metropolises including Detroit and New York.
The reviews of the 1926 and 1927 exhibits of Kalish's laborers were almost universally positive, celebrating Kalish's treatment of a very American subject in a medium long-cherished by European artists. As a major steel producer, Cleveland (and its art critics) particularly appreciated Kalish's realism, and noted more than once that that the artist's own experience as an industrial worker accounts for the truth in the portrayal of his subject. Emily Genauer echoed this idea in 1938, writing, "He is qualified to speak as he does of the movements and rhythms of laborers. He has himself, in the past, been one of them, working in his youth as "a hand" in Cleveland machine shops. He has labored alongside the great, muscular figures he portrays, the bull-necked, powerful, heavy-footed steelworkers, linemen and sledge drivers."
Despite the elegance of the pose of Kalish's Structural Steel Worker, "swinging high on beams above a churning city," Kalish was quick to point out that his laborers are "not propaganda pieces at all, [not] polemics against the abuses of exploitation of labor," nor the deification of it. His intent was, rather, to show in his art a dominant American type, and the natural beauty of that form which, as Kalish described it, "is expressive of poised power held in check."
The first owner of this sculpture, William R. Hopkins, was Cleveland, Ohio's first City Manager (from 1924 - 1929), was responsible for the building of Cleveland Municipal Airport (now Cleveland Hopkins International Airport) and the old Cleveland Stadium, and implemented the building of the Terminal Tower and the creation of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens.
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