The Very Strong Man

Media - 1985.6 - SAAM-1985.6_1 - 8107
Copied Eugenie Gershoy, The Very Strong Man, 1936-1940, polychromed dextrine, 2313 789 58 in. (58.435.224.5 cm.), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Erwin P. Vollmer, 1985.6

Artwork Details

The Very Strong Man
2313 789 58 in. (58.435.224.5 cm.)
Credit Line
Gift of Erwin P. Vollmer
Mediums Description
polychromed dextrine
  • Figure
  • Figure male
  • Fantasy
  • Animal — elephant
  • Performing arts — circus — strong man
Object Number

Artwork Description

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.

Luce Object 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