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Harold Tovish

Born:
New York, New York 1921

Died:
Albuquerque, New Mexico 2008

Active in:

  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Brookline, Massachusetts

Luce Artist Quote

"I feel privileged to be present at a time when I can witness the decline of Western Civilization." The artist, quoted in Michael Mazur, Harold Tovish: A Retrospective Exhibition, 1948-1988, 1988


Biography

Harold Tovish is a sculptor who works in bronze, wood, and synthetic media. He attended WPA art classes in the late 1930s and studied with Oronzio Maldarelli at Columbia University, then went to Paris to work with Ossip Zadkine. Tovish's early work reflects his experiments with figurative naturalism, which he often used to express themes of victimization. In 1949 his ideas became explicit in a series of figures that captured the horror he felt as a soldier exposed to Nazi concentration camps at the end of World War II. Throughout his work Tovish seeks to unify form and content, placing heads or fragments of heads within spaces that function variously as refuges, prisons, or symbols of technological or societal entrapment. In the early 1950s, Tovish moved to Boston where he has taught at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and at Boston University. He spent 1965 as artist-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome.

Virginia M. Mecklenburg Modern American Realism: The Sara Roby Foundation Collection (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press for the National Museum of American Art, 1987)

Additional Biographies

Luce Artist Biography

In a career that spanned sixty years, Harold Tovish became one of the country's eminent sculptors. He spent much of his childhood at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in New York City, where he took drawing classes sponsored by the Works Progress Administration. He later attended Columbia University and traveled to Paris on the GI Bill. Tovish had a long-standing interest in the human body as a subject and vehicle for ideas. His early work focused on the horror he witnessed as a soldier during World War II. In the early 1950s, he became concerned with the destructive consequences of science and technology, portraying humankind confronted with the machinery of "progress." Tovish stopped making sculpture in 1996 after the death of his wife and fellow sculptor, Marianna Pineda, on whose artistic feedback he relied heavily. Known for exacting standards, he refused to complete many sculptures he began and requested that family members destroy all of his unfinished works upon his death.