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Elbert Weinberg


Elbert Weinberg was a Jewish American sculptor.

He was born in Hartford, Connecticut on May 27, 1928. From an early age, Weinberg showed a great interest in sculpting, so at age 14, his mother consulted Henry Kreis, a German sculptor, who suggested Weinberg enroll at the Hartford Art School where he was currently working. Weinberg took his advice, lied about his age, and studied at the Hartford Art School at night throughout high school.  Following graduation, Weinberg enrolled fulltime at the art school and continued to work with Kreis. After two years he transferred to the Rhode Island School of Design where he worked closely with Waldemar Raemisch, another German sculptor. Weinberg refers to both Kreis and Raemisch as his most influential teachers. At age 23, Weinberg became the youngest recipient of the Prix de Rome, entitling him to study in Italy for two years.

Following his time in Italy, Weinberg accepted an offer from Josef Albers, the head of the Yale School of Design, to assist the master abstract purist sculptor, José de Rivera, and to teach the figure at the school. Weinberg’s style dramatically clashed with the pure abstraction that served as the dictating mode of the sculpture department and he was ostracized and outwardly denounced by Albers and others on the faculty.

While working at Yale, a visiting trustee of the Museum of Modern Art saw a sculpture in Weinberg’s living room and offered to buy it. “Ritual Figure” was a woodcarving of a man blowing a shofar, unusual because the man had two arms growing out of one shoulder. The sculpture made the cover of Art in America and soon afterwards Grace Borgenicht of the Borgenicht Gallery in New York, approached interested in his artwork. Borgenicht then convinced Joseph Hirshhorn, founder of the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC, to provide the money for Weinberg to buy a piece of wood that he could sculpt. When Weinberg was finished with his woodcarving, Hirshhorn bought the sculpture for the museum.

In 1959, Weinberg received a Guggenheim Fellowship and decided to return to Rome for the year. After eleven years in Rome, Weinberg returned to America and taught at Dartmouth and Boston University as visiting Professor of Sculpture. He also taught in Rome at Temple University and at Union College in New York. In 1983, he became Professor of Sculpture at Boston University.

Weinberg created Procession for the Jewish Museum in New York, Jacob Wrestling with the Angel for Brandeis University, Justice for the Boston University School of Law, and the Holocaust Memorial for Freedom Plaza in Wilmington, Delaware.

Weinberg’s early works focused mainly on mythological and Biblical themes, though he later focused on more contemporary, real world themes, such as in his mad dog series.  While he doesn’t reject reality altogether, Weinberg often departs from it in order to offer his own interpretation.

Weinberg died in December of 1991 of myelofibrosis, a rare disease of the bone marrow.

Sources: Elbert Weinberg