BAIZERMAN, SAUL (1899–1957), U.S. sculptor. Baizerman was born in Vitebsk, the same Russian town in which Marc *Chagall was raised. At 13 he decided to become a sculptor. He received some artistic training in Russia; the first of his teachers there told him he was not talented enough to succeed as an artist. After escaping from an Odessa prison where he had been incarcerated for a year and a half for revolutionary activities, Baizerman arrived in America in 1910 at the age of 22. In 1911 he began classes at the National Academy of Design, and then continued his artistic training at the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design in New York for four years. He also studied at the Educational Alliance, where he became acquainted with Moses *Soyer and Chaim *Gross.
In the early 1920s Baizerman began a series of carved plaster figures, later cast in bronze, to inhabit a model of New York City. Until his death he worked on this project, titled The City and the People. Approximately 56 pieces show urban life on a small scale; some of the figures are only three inches high. The actual city is a nearly abstract, geometric form in which the laborers of the metropolis might toil. Even so, Baizerman exhibited the small sculptures as independent entities rather than creating a narrative for figures such as Man with Shovel (1921–23) and Rabbi (1922).
While The City and the People is Baizerman's most ambitious project, he is better known for the sculptural technique he adopted in 1926. He hammered copper sheets into representational forms, a physically exhausting procedure that displays the artist's labor as much as the subject represented. This approach had its roots in Baizerman's Russian childhood; his father, a harness maker, hammered leather into harnesses. Being concave as well as convex, Baizerman's sculptures are meant to be seen in the round. Although the sculptures appear solid and heavy, the hammered metal is thin. A January 1931 fire in his New York studio destroyed much of his sculpture, but with renewed energy he created a new body of work that was shown in exhibitions in the 1930s and 1940s, including one-man shows in 1933, 1938, and 1948. His work occasionally took on biblical themes, such as Eve (1949), Crucifixion (c. 1947–50), and Creation (1950–57), which stands eight feet high. He also did a portrait head of Albert Einstein (1940–49).
S. Baizerman, Saul Baizerman's Lifetime Project (1998); M. Dabakis and D. Finn, Vision of Harmony: The Sculpture of Saul Baizerman (1989)
[Samantha Baskind (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.