Page 47 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 31

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39
WERNER / AUTOBIOGRAPHIES OF AMERICAN JEWISH ARTISTS
raphy
(Dial Press, New York, 1951), and died soon after the
book was published. The sculptor, who had achieved interna-
tional fame for his portrait busts of political and cultural leaders,
recalled the “long, dark halls, crowded tenements, strange smells,
drab, unpainted walls” of Manhattan’s Ghetto, adding: “We were
exceedingly poor and often did not have enough to eat.” To con-
tribute to the support of the household, Jo delivered telegrams,
worked as an office boy in a sausage factory, and as an errand
boy in a bookstore and publishing house. There was vehement
parental objection when he declared his intention to become a
sculptor: “My family was opposed to the idea of my becoming
an artist because that meant a loafer, a perpetual pauper, an ab-
solutely useless person.”
Jo ’s mother eventually was reconciled to his aims, and even
posed for her son, but her husband remained unpacified. When
Jo proudly placed on the mantelpiece in their home his bronze
David
that had just been accepted for the annual exhibition of
the Society of American Artists, the elder Davidson disdainfully
left the room: “Father had had other ambitions for me.”
Unlike Epstein, Davidson manifested great interest in his fel-
low-Jews. After World War II, he visited the ruins of the Warsaw
Ghetto: “I t was a mass of rubble, with weeds and blades of grass
shooting up amid the debris. . . . It was heartbreaking.” He en-
tered the competition for the Warsaw Ghetto memorial, but an-
other sculptor’s design was chosen. He also submitted a sketch
for a monument to the Six Million dead, which was to be
erected on New York’s Riverside Drive, but the project was never
carried out. In his last year he visited Israel, where his sitters in-
eluded President Weizmann, Prime Minister Ben Gurion, and
several cabinet members. The final page of
Between Sittings
con-
tains these poignant lines:
“ . . . to see Israel confirmed my belief that life is eternal. It
was like a phoenix rising out of the ashes after it had been con-
sumed—an ancient people, the youngest in spirit, no longer fear-
ing persecution or discrimination, breathing the air of free-
d om .. . . ”
William Zorach’s autobiography,
Art Is My Life,
was issued
by The World Publishing Company (Cleveland and New York,
1967). The sculptor was born in a little village in Lithuania.