José de Creeft was born in Guadalajara, Spain in 1884. His family moved to Barcelona, Spain, soon after he was born. When de Creeft was thirteen years old, his father died, and out of necessity the boy was apprenticed to a wood carver who worked in the local churches. The experience in the artist's workshop cemented de Creeft's decision to become an artist. He moved to Paris at the age of twenty-one and entered the Académie Julian, where he worked in a studio adjacent to those of Pablo Picasso and Juan Gris. In 1929 de Creeft immigrated to the United States. His female heads and figures helped to popularize direct stone carving, a skill he developed in the early 1920s that owed no small debt to his boyhood apprenticeship.
National Museum of American Art (CD-ROM) (New York and Washington D.C.: MacMillan Digital in cooperation with the National Museum of American Art, 1996)
José de Creeft began sculpting at the age of eleven, making small Nativity figures to help support his family. He worked at several artists' studios in Madrid and Barcelona, including that of an imagier, who made stylized religious figures for churches. When he was sixteen, a group of Eskimos pitched their tents near his home. He was fascinated by their craftsmanship, observing that "with tiny pieces of ivory they made monumental carvings" and as a result, became interested in direct methods of carving. He preferred working directly with wood and stone, and in 1927 created over two hundred stone carvings for a fort on the island of Mallorca. Eighteen months later, he moved to America and settled in New York. Although he primarily worked with marble, wood, and terra-cotta, de Creeft also experimented with a wide variety of other materials, including stovepipes, oil cans, insulated wire, and rubber tubes.