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Art

Jo Davidson - The Wizard of Clay and Bronze
 
He was born in New York City to the family of immigrants from the former Russian Empire. Davidson started his career in the atelier of Hermon Atkins MacNeil before going to Paris, where he studied sculpture at the prominent Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1907. After returning to the United States, he found a patron - Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, who would purchase some of his works.
 
In 1934 Davidson won the National Academy of Design's Maynard Prize, and in 1947 the American Academy of Arts and Letters hosted a retrospective featuring nearly 200 of his works. In 1944, he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate Academician.
 
Among Davidson's most known creations are a design for a United States War Industries badge, a collection of pieces for the Government of France to commemorate the first victory of the Troupes de Marine, and bronze busts of the leaders of the First World War Allies. 
 
His uniquely lifelike portraits of world leaders and celebrated personalities gained him international acclaim and praise from art critics. Some of Davidson's work are exhibited in the National Gallery of Art.
 
His unique method resulted in spectacularly realistic portrait busts, but, surprisingly, never required the subjects to actually pose for the artist. Davidson first  observed and spoke with his models, and could later recreate their image down to the tiniest detail and expression. 
 
Davidson led an active public and political life: he was the chairman of the Independent Citizens Committee of Artists, Scientists, and Professionals (ICCASP), a leftist-liberal group that supported the policies of President Franklin Roosevelt and his re-election.
 
Later, in 1946, he became co-chairman of the Progressive Citizens of America (PCA), which fought for racial equality, economic justice and civil liberties.
 
Davidson died in his New York home at the age of 69.
 
Sources:
Davidson, Jo, Between Sittings: an informal autobiography, The Dial Press, NY 1951
Kuhn, Lois Harris, The World of Jo Davidson, Covenant Books, Jewish Publication Society 1958
 

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