Max Kalish (1891 - 1945) was born in Poland on March 1st 1891. He immigrated to the United States with his parents at the age of three. Settling in Ohio, Max showed great promise as an artist in public school but he left school at the age of 15 to enroll in the Cleveland Institute of Art, where he studied under Herman Matzen and was awarded the first prize for life modeling. After graduation from the Institute Max left for New York City where, for the next two years, he studied under some of the more famous sculptors of the day including Isidore Konti and Herbert Adams.
Through the help of his brother Abe, enough money was raised from friends and family so that Max could go to Paris for further study in 1912. He enrolled at the Academie Colarossi, a school preferred by many American artists, and studied under Paul Bartlett. Receiving addition help from his brother Max enrolled the following year at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts and studied sculpture under Jean Antoine Injalbert and two of his portrait busts were accepted at the Paris Salon of that year.
Becoming disheartened by the impoverish life style of a student he decided to use his remaining money to travel through Italy and see the art there before returning to the United States where he assisted Isidore Konti with the plasters for the Column of Progress at the San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exposition. With the money he made from his work for the exhibition he was able to repay many of the loans that he incurred for his studies in Paris and returned to Cleveland where he received commissions for portraits of the Mayor and two US Senators.
Max joined the Army in 1916 and during this time he sculpted a series of 1/3 life size figures of solders which were cast in bronze. He returned to Paris in 1920 where he would spend 6 months of the year, a practice that he continued throughout his life. He became fascinated with the subject of laborers and in 1921 he modeled the first of his sculptures that he was to became famous for. A worker in a Cleveland blast furnace posed as his model. He titled this, his first laborer, The Stoker. During his stay in Paris the following year he saw the work of the Belgian artist Constantine Meunier (1831-1905) who also modeled European laborers decades earlier and decided that he would continue to sculpt subjects of workers engaged in their toil. In 1925 he won the First Prize at the Cleveland Artists and Craftsman exhibit for four of his works (three of which were laborers). The Cleveland Museum of Art purchased one of these works, a marble torso of a nude. Kalish's career took off after his first prize award and the museums acquisition and for the years following he was to produce many bronzes of laborers. In 1928 he received the commission for the monument of Abraham Lincoln for the City of Cleveland. In 1932 he moved his studio from Cleveland to New York where he could receive more exposure and it was easier to get commissions. He was made an associate of the National Academy of Design in 1934 and later inducted into the National Sculpture Society. Kalish continued to model and cast bronzes of laborers throughout his career
When the Second World War broke out he was asked to model and cast forty-eight 1/3 life size figures consisting of president Roosevelt, his entire cabinet, as well as several prominent people involved with the war effort for the Museum of American History. The schedule for this monumental undertaking was grueling and just as he was completing this project he was diagnosed with incurable cancer. Although very ill he continued to oversee the casting of this, his final work, and lived to see its completion. Max Kalish died in New York City on March 18th 1945 at the age of 54.
The Life of Max Kalish is documented in the following books:
Labor Sculpture by Max Kalish (1938)
The Sculpture of Max Kalish by Lawson Lewis (1933)
Rediscoveries in American Sculpture by Janis Conner & Joel Rosenkranz (1989)
Dictionary of American Sculptors by Glenn Opitz (1984)
Dictionary of Sculptors in Bronze by James Mackay (1977)
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