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 Marcel Jovine  (1921 - 2003)

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Lived/Active: New Jersey/Pennsylvania/Connecticut / Italy      Known for: anatomically correct doll creator, coin design, racehorse sculpture

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Ad Code: 4
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
A bronze sculpture of champion race horse John Henry
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Following is The New York Times obituary of the artist, courtesy Scott Schechter

Marcel Jovine, 81; Designed Toys and Coins
Published: January 27, 2003

Marcel Jovine, who shaped such popular toys as the Visible Man and the Visible Woman before becoming an award-winning designer of coins and a sculptor of racehorses, died last Monday in Greenwich, Conn., at the home of his daughter, Andrea Coopersmith. He was 81 and lived and worked in Closter, N.J. His family said his health had been declining for months.

Though he never formally studied art, Mr. Jovine had been drawing, whittling and modeling since he was a boy in Naples, Italy. As a cadet at Italy's military academy in Turin, he delighted in mechanical drawing and architectural drafting. And after he was captured by Allied forces in Africa in World War II, he whiled away his time as a prisoner of war in Pennsylvania by sketching and making sculptures.

He also fell in love with an American pianist and singer named Angela D'Oro, who gave concerts for the prisoners.

The two wrote to each other after peace came and Mr. Jovine was repatriated to Italy. Shortly after the war, he sailed back to the United States to marry Ms. D'Oro. At that point, he decided to try his hand at toys.

After a few tries, he cooked up a rubberized plastic on the stove and used the fleshy material to produce a baby doll. The Ideal toy company liked his prototype and marketed his creation as the Blessed Event doll. It became a big seller and provided royalties that enabled Mr. Jovine to buy his large Victorian home in Closter.

Mrs. Coopersmith remembers the third-floor studio where her father made toys and models as ''a magical place, something like Santa's workshop.'' His ideas sprouted from a playful imagination.

Once he explained how on a hot, muggy day he draped a wet cloth over his head and, glimpsing himself in a mirror, thought he looked like a pirate. That was enough to lead him to design a pirate ship with a full crew sailing under the Jolly Roger, which turned into a commercial hit. Later he developed a line of tanks and weaponry based on declassified Army blueprints.

But it was his anatomical models of men and women with removable plastic organs that were to be his most widely known creations. Visible Man came first, appearing around 1960, to be followed soon after by Visible Woman.

Both models allowed for parental guidance and discretion and could be constructed with or without genitalia. Mr. Jovine also included optional parts for Visible Woman that could be used to simulate pregnancy.

The trademarked Visible models were initially produced by Revell but have been manufactured by a succession of other companies over the last four decades.

Mr. Jovine once explained that it was the early success of the Soviet space program that had inspired him to produce these models. ''I wanted to make hobby items that would teach something to the children who put them together.'' In addition to the anatomical kits, he also designed a working model of a V-8 auto engine that could be assembled from plastic parts. Called Visible Engine, it too is still being made.

By the late 1970's, Mr. Jovine had given up toymaking to concentrate on numismatic sculpture. His studio became a place where he carved bas-reliefs and intaglios, making prototypes for coins and medals and preparing molds for minting.

He made the Olympic medals used at the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid, N.Y. Two years later, the American Numismatic Society chose his design for its 125th anniversary medal. And in 1987 the United States Treasury selected his work for a $5 gold piece marking the bicentennial of the Constitution.

That coin, made available only to collectors at a substantial premium over its face value, showed a stylized eagle with a quill pen in its talons on one side and the words ''We the People'' on the other.

Describing the commemorative work in the Coins column of The New York Times, Ed Reiter wrote, ''Mr. Jovine's design is the most impressive work of coinage art to appear in this country in many years.''

Mr. Jovine also started producing bronze statues of famous racehorses, including winning thoroughbreds like Affirmed, Seattle Slew, Spectacular Bid, Nashua and John Henry. He also received commissions from the owners of lesser-known mounts to capture their likeness and spirit in his distinctive pieces, which stood about 18 inches high.

In addition to Mrs. Coopersmith, he is survived by another daughter, Marcia, of Washington; and a grandson, Alexander.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Naples, Italy, Marcel Jovine was a medalist and animalier of thoroughbred horses, and is especially noted for catching these animals in action. Also for the toy industry he designed and created the Visible Man and the Blessed Event Doll, projects he completed before turning to sculpture as fine art.

Jovine studied at the Royal Academy of Turin, Italy and with Brunetto Buracchini in Siena, Italy. He spent much of his career in the United States, settling in Closter, New Jersey, and has won awards from the National Sculpture Society and the American Numismatic Society. His "Portrait of a Pacer", 1985, depicting champion horse Walt Hanover, won the National Sculpture Society's M.H. Lamston Prize at the NSS 1983 exhibition.

His medal designs include medals for the 50th Anniversary for the city of Palm Springs, the 1987 US Olympic team, and a five dollar gold coin for the US Bicentennial.  A New York Times review of the gold coin referred to it as "the most impressive work of coinage art to appear in this country in many years." (Reynolds, 192). There was an issue of 850,000 medals, which brought good attention to Jovine and to medallic art.

In 1988, Jovine executed a celebratory medal for the 125th anniversary of the American Numismatic Society, and in 1990 for the 1990 issue of the Society, he created a much-celebrated Creation medal, which had an image from Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling and images of animals, human figures and cosmic forms spiraling outward from the center.

He has served as President of the National Sculpture Society and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Cultural Center School of Art in Demarest, New Jersey.

Who's Who in American Art, 2003-2004
Donald Martin Reynolds, Masters of American Sculpture

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