South Brunswick artist, the late George Segal, has made a lasting impression at the Zimmerli Art Museum in New Brunswick, most recently having his “Red Acrobat” sculpture installed.
Segal (1924-2000) was born in the Bronx, but lived nearly his entire life in New Jersey, specifically South Brunswick. He studied at The Cooper Union and Pratt Institute of Design in New York and at New York University where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Arts Education in 1949. He also earned a Master of Fine Arts from Rutgers University in 1963, and was awarded several honorary Ph.D. degrees from Rutgers, Ramapo College, Kean University and the Massachusetts College of Art, according to information provided by Donna Gustafson, curator of American Art and Mellon Director for Academic Programs at the Zimmerli, part of Rutgers University.
“While at Rutgers he moved from painting to sculpture and discovered the technique that would make him an internationally recognized sculptor – plaster casting of living bodies. His subjects were family, friends and acquaintances and he presented these everyday people in scenes of everyday life. He was associated with pop art and showed with these artists often, but always maintained that his interest in humanistic subject matter set him apart from the interests of the pop artists,” according to Gustafson.
Segal also created public sculptures cast in bronze and sited outdoors. Some of his best known are the Depression Breadline (1991); one of the edition is on view at the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton; Walking Man (1988), one on view on the Rutgers campus; Gay Liberation Monument (1980) on Christopher Street in New York; Abraham and Isaac: In Memory of May 4, 1970, Kent State University, on the Princeton campus; and the Holocaust Memorial in San Francisco also known as “The Survivor” (1984).
Segal was best known as a sculptor, but was also a painter, photographer and printmaker.
“The George Segal Foundation has been a generous supporter of the Zimmerli Art Museum and has given the museum many works of art. This latest gift was a result of a series of conversations with the foundation who very kindly gave us the opportunity to choose works that would add to what we had already acquired over the years. For that reason, I chose five works (sculpture, pastel on paper and painting) on the subject of the still life; three early pastels from the 1960s showing Segal’s early interest in the nude female figure; four large figural works: Woman Under Scaffolding, Red Acrobat, Appalachian Farm Coupl, and Italian Restaurant; and several black-and-white drawn portraits of family and friends.
“With these new works we can represent George Segal to our community in all of his complexity and talk about his interest in more than the plaster cast figure in everyday life. These new works also give us the opportunity to showcase Segal as an artist who looked carefully at the history of art and was influenced by such painters as Cezanne, Picasso and Hans Hoffman, with whom he studied for a short while, as well as his contemporaries. We can also talk about his preference for models drawn from his family and friends, keeping his circle of subjects small and local. I’m very pleased to be able to give our museum audiences a chance to see George Segal as a painter, photographer, draftsman and sculptor who worked in many media and with many ideas,” Gustafson said.
Segal became a famous artist while living in South Brunswick, and he and his family were deeply connected to the community.
“Having his work here in the Zimmerli keeps him connected to a new generation. He is a local legend in many ways; he certainly is to me and I still have people coming on my tours who tell me that they met him or took a class with him. Showing off his work in the museum to local school children and to the students of Rutgers, many of whom are New Jersey natives, shows young, aspiring artists that art and artists live, work and stay in New Jersey. I think it gives back to the community and gives New Jersey pride of place,” Gustafson said.
The Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University is located at 71 Hamilton St., New Brunswick. For more information, visit www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu.