Modern Artists Cafe


by J.M.2

Recreation by J.M.2
of Segal's Sleeping Girl II

Works by the artist

Blue Girl on Black Bed
The Dancers
The Costume Party
The Diner
Rush Hour
Untitled pastels
Woman Against Black Window

George Segal



    A plaster hand done in the technique of George Segal byJ.M.2.

The life of a diverse artist

Born in 1924 in New York, George Segal lived the life on an exceptionally diverse artist. Segal's works include

  • abstract paintings
  • pastels
  • reliefs of human figures
  • paraphrases of Cubist canvases
  • sculptures based on still-life paintings
  • plaster sculptures
  • extremely large portraits
In addition to being a well-rounded artist, Segal also received an extensive and varied education. From 1941-1949 Segal studied art, architecture and art education at several universities, including Rutgers University, Pratt Institute of Design and New York University, receiving a Bachelor of Science in art education from the latter. He continued his education throughout his life, receiving a Master of Fine Arts from Rutgers University in 1963 and an Honorary Doctorate, also from Rutgers, in 1970. (Staudile)

After college, Segal married Helen Steinberg, settled on a chicken farm and began teaching art. After meeting Allen Kaprow in 1953, Segal's interest in creating art was rekindled and Segal began to refocus on absract painting. (George Segal: A Retrospective) His first one-man show took place at the Hansa Gallery in New York and featured abstract painting, drawings and pastels. (Goldone) Segal's passion for art continued to grow and in 1958 Segal turned his chicken coops into a series of studios, it was there that his first "happening" was arranged by Allen Kaprow. Soon, after Segal began experimenting in life-size sculpting, which would become his trademark in the years to come.

Life-size sculpture

Segal first began focusing on sculpture in 1958, using the matarials surrounding him:

  • chicken wire
  • burlap
  • plaster
In 1961, Segal discovered a techinque usable for life-size sculptures involving plaster and medical bandages used to set fractures. To create his sculptures Segal would wrap his subjects in the medical bandages dipped in plaster, allow the plaster to dry, and then cut off the hardened cast. (Beal 34) He used himself as the model for his first life-size plaster sculpture, Man at Table , but would used neighbors, family, friends and volunteers (never professionals), as his models thereafter. (Mason) His sculptures where pure-white, frozen, lacking detail and Segal placed these blank canvases in realistic environments using props from the modern world. For example, in his sculpture The Bar , Segal included a real television and chair. In 1964, his sculpture Man on Bicycle , became the first of Segal's pieces to be acquired by a museum. It was acquired by the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Swedan. ( George Segal, A Retrospective )

Creating a plaster hand in the style of George Segal

In the mid-1970's Segal altered his sculpting technique. He began pouring the plaster into casts, using them as molds in order to obtain greater detail. Segal would then paint the sculpture a single, bright hue. In 1976, Segal created his first bronze sculpture for a public area. One of the best examples of Segal's bronze sculptures is the Depression Bread Line , created for the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial in Washington D.C. (George Segal, a Retrospective)

Segal sculpts reality

George Segal is considered to be one of the founder of the 1960's art movement known as Pop Art, due to his interest in the everyday world and his highly inventive techniques. Segal was once quotes, in a telephone interview for The Christian Science Monitor , as saying:

"My teachers were abstract painters. But I was overwhelmed by the necessity of reality-by the real world."

It was this philosophy that separated Segal from his fellow Pop artists, Segal surpassed their focus on wit and sophisticated attachment, in favor of displaying the human condition-its solitude and fragility. (George Segal, a Retrospective) Segal placed his sculptures in modern, everyday settings and situations and gave them an "eerily feeling of isolation". (George Segal, a Retrospective) It is this look that gives his figures a humane quality that can be universily identified with. Segal is quoted as saying in The Christian Science Monitor

"I note [my subjects] gestures. I depend on my language [plaster] to communicate anguish. I really am interested in provoking a state of compassion."

Segal is also inspired by film and literature

George Segal did not only draw his inspiration from everyday life, but also from:

  • film
  • well-known stories
  • lore

For example, Segal created a series of sculptures throughout his career based on biblical works. These sculptures contained important biblical figures from the Old Testament, dressed in modern-day clothing and set in a realistic environment. One of these works, In Memory of May 4, 1970:Kent State-Abraham and Isaac, was created in response to the shooting of anti-war demonstrators by the National Guard, on the Kent State campus during the Vietnam War. Segal used the idea of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac in order to complete God's will, to represent the National Guard's willingness to sacrifice American people to make a point. The sculpture shows Isaac on his knees in front of Abraham, seemingly begging for his life. This work was considered to be politically controversial and rejected by its comissioner Kent State for being "unpatriotic". (Berman)


Segal's creations were exceedingly unique and individualistic, allowing viewers to formulate their own thoughts about the meaning of these creations.

"All I want to do I provoke thought and leave from for their [the viewer's] response."

(Mason, The Christian Science Monitor)

Where to find Segal today

George Segal's variety of works can be found in many galleries, museums and private collections throughout the world.

  • Segal's biblical works, including The Expulsion, Jacob's Ladder, and In Memory of May 4, 1970:Kent State-Abraham and Isaac, are at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York.
  • Rush Houris at the Ho-am Museum in South Korea
  • Woman on a Bedis at the Seattle Art Museum
  • Cinemais at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery
  • Cezanne Still Life No.4is at the Sidney Janis Gallery
  • The Dineris at Walker Art Center in New York
  • The Dancersis at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
  • Depression Bread Lineis at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial in Washington D.C.


History and Thought of Western Man
Rich East High School
Park Forest, IL 60466

This page was created by J.M.2. Last revised March 14, 2001.

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