George Segal (artist)

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George Segal
Born (1924-11-26)November 26, 1924
New York City
Died June 9, 2000(2000-06-09) (aged 75)
New Brunswick, New Jersey
Nationality American
Known for Sculpture, Pop art
Awards Praemium Imperiale

George Segal (November 26, 1924 – June 9, 2000) was an American painter and sculptor associated with the Pop Art movement. He was presented with the United States National Medal of Arts in 1999.


Segal's Street Crossing (1992) located at Montclair State University is typical of the look of his sculptures

Although Segal started his art career as a painter, his best known works are cast lifesize figures and the tableaux the figures inhabited. In place of traditional casting techniques, Segal pioneered the use of plaster bandages (plaster-impregnated gauze strips designed for making orthopedic casts) as a sculptural medium. In this process, he first wrapped a model with bandages in sections, then removed the hardened forms and put them back together with more plaster to form a hollow shell. These forms were not used as molds; the shell itself became the final sculpture, including the rough texture of the bandages. Initially, Segal kept the sculptures stark white, but a few years later he began painting them, usually in bright monochrome colors. Eventually he started having the final forms cast in bronze, sometimes patinated white to resemble the original plaster.

Segal's figures had minimal color and detail, which gave them a ghostly, melancholic appearance. In larger works, one or more figures were placed in anonymous, typically urban environments such as a street corner, bus, or diner. In contrast to the figures, the environments were built using found objects.


Segal was born in New York; his Jewish parents were immigrants from Eastern Europe. His parents ran a butcher shop in the Bronx, then moved to a poultry farm in New Jersey where Segal grew up. He attended Stuyvesant High School, as well as Pratt, Cooper Union, and New York University, from which he graduated in 1949 with a teaching degree.[1] In 1946 he married Helen Segal and they bought another chicken farm in South Brunswick, New Jersey, where he lived for the rest of his life.[2]

He only ran the chicken farm for a few years, but he used the space to hold annual picnics for his friends from the New York art world. His location in central New Jersey also led to friendships with professors from the Rutgers University art department. Segal introduced several Rutgers professors to John Cage, and took part in Cage's legendary experimental composition classes. Allan Kaprow coined the term Happening to describe the art performances that took place on Segal's farm in the Spring of 1957. Events for Yam Fest also took place there. His widow Helen Segal keeps his memory and works alive through the George and Helen Segal Foundation.

Notable works[edit]

The Holocaust Memorial at Legion of Honor in San Francisco
Text accompaniment to The Holocaust Memorial at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, dedicated 1984.


Honors and awards[edit]

Gay Liberation Monument in New York City
  • (1992) Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award, International Sculpture Center, Hamilton, NJ, USA.[10]


  • George Segal (1979). Directed by Michael Blackwood. Documentary about Segal, who discusses and is shown creating his bronze sculpture Abraham and Isaac, which was originally intended as a memorial for the Kent State shootings of 1970.
  • George Segal: American Still Life (2001). Directed by Amber Edwards. Made-for-TV documentary about his life and work.[11]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "George Segal: Biography". The George and Helen Segal Foundation. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 
  2. ^ Turner, Elisa. "Segal exhibit evokes quiet dignity of humdrum lives", The Miami Herald, December 20, 1998. Accessed July 31, 2007. "That compassion is also evident in the work ethic and personality of this artist, who's called himself a Depression baby and who speaks fondly of South Brunswick, N.J., where he's lived since the 1940s, as a working man's town."
  3. ^ "Guggenheim Acquires Sculptural Work by George Segal". Guggenheim. August 8, 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 
  4. ^ "Abraham and Isaac: In Memory of May 4, 1970, Kent State University, 1978–79". Campus Art Princeton. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 
  5. ^ "George Segal's Gay Liberation". GLBTQ Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 
  6. ^ "Sculptor George Segal's Model Commuters Are a Study in Terminal Patience". People. June 7, 1982. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 
  7. ^ Honolulu Museum of Art, wall label, Japanese Couple against a Brick Wall by George Segal, 1982, plaster, wood, paint and faux brick, accession 2013-28-01
  8. ^ "George Segal Sculptures Walk to New Location at Montclair State". Montclair State University. December 2, 2010. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 
  9. ^ "George Segal Papers". Firestone Library, Princeton University. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 
  10. ^ International Sculpture Center website. 'Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award' webpage. Retrieved February 20, 2010.
  11. ^ "George Segal: American Still Life". IMDb. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 


External links[edit]