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The Very Strong Man

1936-1940 Eugenie Gershoy Born: Krivoi Rog, Russia 1901 Died: United States 1986 polychromed dextrine 23 x 13 7/8 x 9 5/8 in. (58.4 x 35.2 x 24.5 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Erwin P. Vollmer 1985.6 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 4th Floor, 47B

Luce Center Quote

“I began to explore the use of color . . . to intensify gesture and expression, to accentuate movement, heighten dramatic effects, [and] enhance the imagery.” Artist’s statement

Luce Center Label

During the late 1930s, Eugenie Gershoy began working for the Works Progress Administration in New York. A friend of hers, the artist Max Spivak, was designing a series of murals for a children’s library in Astoria, Long Island. Gershoy decided to create colorful figurines to go along with Spivak’s paintings. These sculptures depicted circus characters posed in a variety of impossible feats, including the figures in Ill-Fated Toreador, who dangles precariously from a bull’s horn, and The Very Strong Man, who lifts an elephant above his head while balancing on one toe. The library was so pleased with the work of Gershoy and Spivak, they rebuilt the space into an oval to emphasize the circus setting.


Animal - elephant


Figure male

Performing arts - circus - strong man


adhesive - dextrine