Michener Art Museum

Ahron Ben-Shmuel


Ahron Ben-Shmuel c. 1932, photo gift of Mrs. Penny W. Caccavo, James A. Michener Art Museum archives
PAINTER, SCULPTOR
BORN: January 18, 1903, New York, New York
DIED: February 24, 1984, Jerusalem, Israel


Sculptor Ahron Ben-Shmuel began carving in his father's shop, where pelts and skins were removed from animals and placed over carved wooden replicas. He began carving anything he could find: pieces of chalk from school and pieces of marble, limestone, or sandstone from demolition rubbish. Ben-Shmuel was exhilarated to discover his gift for sculpture as a "sixth sense" by which he could transform impressions from his other senses and "muscularly think them out into moving forms". His formal training began in a stone yard, where he served a three-year apprenticeship as a monument carver. He also worked for other sculptors, reproducing their models in stone. His independent study of primitive and classical sculpture in museums confirmed his conviction that direct carving in "resistant" material was the basis of sound sculptural technique. Ben-Shmuel's forms in granite seem to be emerging from their blocks of stone into stylized figures that retain the density of the original mass, yet counterpoint it by their fluid rhythms, projecting strength and power as well as delicate gracefulness. Suffering from ailing lungs, he later changed medium to painting in an abstract style, producing quite a large body of work.
Artist Jackson Pollock studied with Ahron Ben-Shmuel at his studio in Greenwich Village in New York.