Albert Wein

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Sculptor Albert Wein.
Phyrne before the Judges by Albert Wein.
Naomi by Albert Wein.

Albert Wein was an artist of innate talent. Sculpture was a great focus in his career but it is evident that he could apply his hand to any art form and exhibit a facile mastery of the medium. He had a wonderful ability with line and was a beautiful draftsman. In the 1950s and 1960s Albert produced quite a body of canvases and works on paper, all in the avant-garde abstract manner that prevailed at that time. Whether it was abstract sculpture or abstract painting, Albert’s subject matter and approach was never on the superficial side.


Albert Wein was the only son of accomplished female artist Elsa Wein. This early influence had a profound effect on the creative course that Wein would soon follow. Albert remembered making his first drawings at age two. At the age of nine, Elsa enrolled the two of them in classes at the Maryland Institute, a school that adhered to a curriculum of academic based Classicism. These early influences in the classical tradition formed an impression that would last him the rest of his artistic career. In fact, Wein was once quoted as saying that the main thrust of his work was "to modernize and stylize the classical tradition".

The 1929 Stock Market crash put an end to his studies at the institute and caused the family to return to New York. While attending high school in the Bronx Wein registered at the National Academy of Design taking up study under the highly respected painter Ivan Olinsky.

Family Group Bronze SculptureIn 1932, Wein enrolled in classes at the Beaux-Arts Institute in New York where he expanded upon his academic education in sculpture while studying under some of the most prominent practitioners in their field. His talents were evident when he won an honorable mentions in 1934 and second place for his Jesus Is Entombed in the school's Paris Prize competition.

Wein's inclination toward modernization and stylistic composition in his work was made manifest when he decided to enroll in a painting class given by Hans Hofmann, a forefront leader of modernism. It was around this time that Wein sculpted Adam, an early powerful modernist work that revealed what would become his signature stylization of classical tradition.

In 1934 he took a pay-cut to join the W.P.A. during which time he was able to produce many fine works for both commission and competition.

In 1938 he received an honorable mention by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. World's Fair Competition for "Family Group" at the New York World's Fair.

In 1947 he won the Prix de Rome scholarship to study in the American Academy in Rome, where he was to stay for two years. During that period he traveled through Europe, exposing himself to Greek and Roman sculptural precedents.

Society of MedallistsHe returned to the United States and in 1950 joined the National Sculpture Society. Wein was adept at creating monumental, architectural, garden, memorial sculpture. He was also accomplished at bas-relief and produced work for the Steuben Glass Company as well as being a member of the Society of Medallists.

In 1955 Wein moved to California where, besides creating sculpture for numerous synagogues and for private collections, he drew upon his experience in New York Theatre and designed sets for television studios including working as art director for the Ernie Kovacs Show. He also worked on over 300 commercials, including ads for Dutch Masters Cigars, Folgers Coffee, and the Ford Motor Company. Wein experimented with a vast range of media, materials and explored figurative abstraction in both his sculpture and painting, from cubist to free-form while on the west coast. He had a number of one-man exhibitions in California and had numerous radio and television interviews. During this period he also produced a number of fine erotic sculptures. Some of these were used by a psychiatrist to help his patients.

Mr. Wein's ten-foot limestone statue of Phryne Before the Judges was commissioned by Anna Hyatt Huntington and is located in Brookgreen Gardens.

He was also artist-in-residence at Brandeis Camp and a visiting professor of sculpture at the University of Wyoming.

In 1975, he was commissioned to create North America's largest granite relief; A 27 ft x 27 ft. granite relief on Libby Dam which is located in Montana. His design was picked unanimously by the judges for its wonderfully designed and clear image which could still be seen from afar. Albert and his wife Deyna lived in Vermont during the carving of the 75 ton monument which was dedicated by President Gerald Ford. The work took several years to complete.

In 1975 he moved back to New York and settled in Westchester County. He became a fellow of the National Sculpture Society and was elected to Academician of the National Academy of Design. His attention returned to a more representation of the figure and as he said "modernizing the classical tradition" which continued until his death.

In the 1980s he was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation grant for study in Bellagio, Italy. During his illustrious career he won every award that a sculptor could win. Few artists have experimented and been able to marry both the Classicism and Modernism so wonderfully.

Wein's modernistic approach is also manifest in his paintings and related works. He approached painting much the same way he did sculpture, from a sound academic based foundation that gave him the legitimacy and freedom to express his modernistic views. His paintings have been widely exhibited and have gained him much notoriety. Very few artists of the twentieth century have so successfully achieved a balance between the extremes of Classicism and Modernism, as did Albert Wein. His sound foundation of academic excellence provided the basis for the stylized, modernistic approach that set him apart from his contemporaries. Wein Felt that "every good work of art is a good abstract composition" or could at least be represented by one. That the subject, devoid of details and pared down to only what is necessary to convey the "essence" of the composition is what really mattered in an artistic work.

He left behind a legacy of spectacular works that have universal appeal because of his unique ability to forge a union between centuries of artistic style. Gordon Friedlander - friend and former 21st president of the National sculpture society stated eloquently: "Albert's work will live on and will endure. These sculptures have already passed the test of time - the true measure of the worth of all creative people."

Albert Wein: An American Modernist

Albert Wein: An American Modernist at the Boston Athenaeum, September 17- November 29, 2008

This retrospective exhibition features lifetime works by notable artist Albert Wein, N.A. and is the first major exhibition of the artist’s oeuvre in several decades. The exhibition will be accompanied by the first major monograph on the artist’s life and work, written and curated by the Athenaeum’s Susan Morse Hills Curator of Paintings and Drawings, David Dearinger.

Levis Fine Art is proud to be a major supporter of the artistic legacy of Albert Wein as well as lending a majority of important lifetime works to the exhibition.

Influence remains as precious to an artist as their tools; it is the strength and foundation upon which they test their own artistic abilities, resulting in a unique inner voice, one which resonates in each stroke and contour throughout their body of work. Multi-dimensional artist, Albert Wein, N.A. serves as an exemplary artist who built upon his influences, ultimately transcending his voice across a range of themes, mediums and styles. His willingness to experiment with such a variety of influences provides a clearer understanding of his lifetime commitment to “modernize the classical tradition”.

Beginning with his studies at the Maryland Institute and the National Academy of Design, during the late 1920’s, Wein received incredible support and guidance in the period of classical antiquity. By the early 1930’s Wein had enrolled in the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design in Manhattan, looking to pursue a career which was architecture based, but art oriented. His sculpture, Adam, portrays both the strength of physical space and the delicacy of emotion, a revelation of what would become his signature style. Notable artists such as Chaim Gross, Ibram Lassaw and Nathaniel Kaz were just a few of the well-accomplished on the Institute’s list of students at the time, but Sidney Waugh a teacher at the Institute, would be credited with having the most impact on Wein’s artistic ideologies. Waugh appealed to Wein’s unrelenting infatuation with multi-dimension and multi-medium works of art. From the earliest stages in Wein’s artistic development, he simultaneously used different mediums.

Wein’s early career proved highly successful as he won many of the major awards from the National Sculpture Society, National Academy of Design and Architectural League. The most prestigious of awards, the Prix de Rome, was bestowed upon Albert in 1947 for his obvious commitment to the modernization of the classical canon. Beethoven, Dancing Girl, Phryne and Homage to Bela Bartok were all created while Wein studied and worked in Rome during 1947 and 1948. Each work addresses Wein’s approach to providing only the necessary of details with a consistent focus on the nude female figure as a subject. The monumentality of these small works transcends their physical space and emotional dynamism.

Wein’s infatuation with the female form prevailed throughout his career. Like other notable modernists, his style dramatically changed over his oeuvre, making amends for certain artistic styles and themes concurrent with the times. His earliest works heavily reference the W.P.A. style of massive, powerful figures, as seen in Harvest, while his works dating from the late 1940’s reveal a softer, perhaps more mindful approach towards the human form; a style he would later return to in the 1970’s. Even during Wein’s abstract period of the 1950’s and 60’s, his utilization and adaptation of the classical form is evident. It is in these pieces that his true voice is most vulnerable and apparent; everything has been pared down and the only remnant is raw emotion and pure form. This striking combination can be best seen in his abstract pieces.

In 1979 Wein won the commission to create the design for the Libby Dam on the Kootenai River in Montana. This 30 foot granite bas relief remains Wein’s most important and most technically challenging work of art created. Both the concept and the work itself gained Wein national attention and allowed him to work side by side an architect; proving to be the fulfillment of a lifetime desire of combining art and architecture.

Wein’s last major award was granted by the Rockefeller Foundation in 1989 and allowed Wein one last opportunity to study from the classical canon firsthand. The drawings from this period reflect incredible fluidity and ease depicting the human figure.

Wein’s notable and varied exhibition history including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney, support the recognition of his unique ability to master the human form in any material, whether bronze, wood, or terracotta. His unrelenting dedication to the human form, to the classical canon and to the modernization of both, reflect the ingenuity of an artist willing to take risks and separate himself from the average.


About Pickens Museum

Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp by Sculptor John Free. Seeking to attain his tribe's highest war honor by touching his enemy. This action among indigenous peoples is called "Counting Coup".
Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp by Sculptor John Free. “Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp” is a bronze created by Osage Artist John Free. The bronze, eight feet high and twelve feet long) was enlarged to 1-1/4 life size through the efforts of John Free of the Bronze Horse foundry in Pawhuska and Hugh Pickens. Pictured (L-R): Hugh Pickens, Executive Director of Pickens Museum and Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear of the Osage Nation.
Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman by Artist Daniel Pickens. “Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman” is a mural painted by fine artist Daniel Pickens. Daniel was born in Lima, Peru in 1974 and is currently living in Stockholm, Sweden. This mural is at our Ponca City location.
“"War Club" by Native Artist Yatika Starr Fields was recently acquired from Garth Greenam Gallery to Pickens Museum. Personal and social struggle have long been integral to the artist’s practice. After joining the Water Protectors at the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016, Fields increasingly centered the Indigenous history of hope and struggle in his work, particularly in his studio practice. In his 2017 series, Tent Metaphor Standing Rock, Field recovered tents after the infamous February 22, 2017 police raid on the protesters. The artist recombined the vivid tenting material—the mainstay of middle-class camping holidays that has become an icon of homelessness and protest movements—into traditional Indigenous patterns, anti-pipeline slogans, and into dynamic, compelling abstract compositions. As in his graffiti works, Fields blurs the line between abstraction and representation, creating stylistic compositions out of recognizable elements, and setting them against dynamic, swirling fields of color and twisting forms. The works blur the boundaries between political polemic and abstraction, between distress, resistance and hope.
Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman by Artist Daniel Pickens. Our mural "The Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman" is located in City Central at our Ponca City location.
Doctor Pickens Museum of Turquoise Jewelry and Art. Pickens Museum displays art works at NOC Tonkawa campus. Pictured (L-R): Dr. Cheryl Evans, NOC President, Hugh Pickens, Executive Director of Pickens Museum, and Sheri Snyder, NOC Vice President for Development and Community Relations. (photo by John Pickard/Northern Oklahoma College) This art is at our Tonkawa location
Native American Artist Yatika Starr Fields Completes Mural for Pickens Museum.
The World's Largest Naja. Future location of Pickens Museum on Route 60 and "U" Street West of Ponca City
Architectural Renderings of Pickens Museum.
Aerial View from East of Future location of Pickens Museum along Route 60 at "U" Street West of Ponca City
Display of Turquoise Jewelry.
Drum player by Allan Houser. This stone carving is part of the collection at Pickens Museum.
"Red Man" by Native American Artist Fritz Scholder. Pickens Museum Director Hugh Pickens on right.
Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp.
Native American Jewelry Artist Tonya Rafael with a silver frame she created to honor my wife Sr. S.J. Pickens. My wife and Tonya worked together over the years creating new jewelry art pieces. My wife had an eye for color and would often design a spectacular piece and ask Tonya to execute it for her. A skilled silversmith, Tonya would sometimes stay in our guest house, set up a workshop, and work for days at a time on a Squash Blossom, Bolo, or Bracelet my wife commissioned. The piece is a silver picture frame that Tonya cut out of thick silver plate. Around the edge of the picture frame are 95 small turquoise stones. In the top is a large spiny oyster stone in the shape of a heart. The frame contains a photo that Tonya took of my wife a few years ago. Dr. Pickens is wearing one of her favorite outfits and if you look closely you can see a special squash blossom and necklace that Tonya created for my wife. In the bottom of the frame is an inscription.
Native American Artist Jolene Bird. Jolene Bird is an accomplished artist who learned her craft from her grandfather over 20 years ago. Jolene makes her jewelry in the tradition of the Santo Domingo Pueblo in New Mexico. This is a Fender Stratocaster guitar onto which Jolene has attached pieces of Kingman and Sonoran Turquoise highlighted with Jet. The stars are in Abalone, Mother of Pearl, Pipestone, Yellow Serpentine, and Spiny Oyster. The artistry in this piece is simply breathtaking and has to be seen to be believed. Consider that this is a three dimensional mosaic, a three dimensional jigsaw puzzle if you will. Jolene told me that each individual piece of turquoise had to be cut, shaped, and ground down to fit perfectly with the other pieces. Each individual piece probably took six to eight hours to produce and there are literally hundreds of pieces covering the guitar.
American Indian by Paul Manship This piece at Pickens Museum is the only known existing copy of this sculpture.
Painting by Peruvian Artist Josue Sanchez. Photo Credit: Hugh Pickens Pickens Museum

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