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 Mico Kaufman  (1924 - )

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts      Known for: sculptor-medallist and monument

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Mico Kaufman
An example of work by Mico Kaufman
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following review was submitted by Peter Kostoulakos:


"Whistler House to Honor Kaufman"

By Mary Sampas, Sun Correspondent
Updated: 09/04/2010 06:35:32 AM EDT

A lot of people who don't really know Tewksbury's pride and joy, the sculptor Mico Kaufman, think of him as "famously reclusive" because he doesn't socialize a whole lot. But it's not that he's unfriendly -- he's a workaholic, and he keeps a tight schedule.

He will be met, up close and personal, on Sunday, Oct. 17, at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center. The event and exhibition, "Mico Kaufman: From the Minuscule to the Monumental," starts at 4 p.m. with a viewing of medallic portraitures, sculptures in bronze and plastic, and works of art on paper and canvas. At the celebratory award banquet at 6 p.m., the Whistler House Museum of Art will honor him with the newly established James McNeill Whistler Distinguished Artist Award.

The award will make a lot of people instantly think about the sculpture of Whistler by Kaufman that reigns in the museum garden. It is Kaufman's delight to catch an expression that was a high point in his subject's life. In Whistler's case, the happy smirk attests to his joy in winning his libel case against an art critic.

Likewise, a stroller going by a sculpture of Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller in Tewksbury should pause to note that they were caught at the point when the blind and deaf pupil, Helen, has finally communicated with her teacher, Annie, on the sign for "water."

Kaufman's "Spirit of the Marathon" was installed in Marathon, Greece, near the start of the 2004 Olympic Marathon, to honor all marathon runners, beginning with Pheidippides, who first ran the distance from the town of Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C. An identical sculpture appears at the one-mile marker in Hopkinton, honoring the runners of the Boston Marathon.

At European unveilings, Kaufman was accompanied by his partner-helpmate Elsie Howell. They met in Tewksbury, where she also has a home, in 1970 when she returned from years working as a nurse in Borneo. "We've been together happily for 40 years and hope for many more years," she says.

Elsie, who doesn't sculpt, plants flowers and makes life easier for Kaufman, watching out to keep him healthy.

Kaufman has distinguished himself in many media, with singular success as a medallic artist. He has done official presidential medal portraits of Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, George Bush and Jimmy Carter -- the only sculptor to have been commissioned for four official presidential medals. For the Bicentennial, he was commissioned to do 192 different medals depicting important events in U.S. history.

Born in Buzeu, Romania, Kaufman is a self-taught artist. At the age of 16, he created his first formal project, a nude female figure whittled from his uncle's broken cane. World War II interrupted his studies and, with the escalation of anti-Semitism, Kaufman spent three years of hard labor in a Nazi concentration camp.

Released at age 21, Kaufman went to Italy, where the same female figure, created years before, got him a full academic scholarship at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome. In 1949, he married a Greek wife and raised a daughter and two sons, with the family communicating in Greek, Italian, and English as the mood suited them. In 1956, Kaufman became a U.S. citizen.

Whistler House President Sara Bogosian is co-chair of the event with Terry O'Connor. She says it "will introduce Mico's work to a new generation of viewers, and for the artist's longtime admirers will celebrate his importance within the history of art in the community and the world."

Also on the event committee are Mary Ann Coravos, A. Veronica Demers, Peter Kostoulakos, Peggy Palm, Joe Pyne, Bob Roach, Frank Makarewicz, Erin Noonan-Descoteaux and Anastasia Porter. Tickets are $100 with a discount for members.




Biography from Whistler House Museum of Art:
This biography was submitted by Whistler House Museum of Art, courtesy Peter Kostoulakos, ISA Fine Art Consultant www.pkart.com

Mico Kaufman---international sculptor and medalist---was born on January 3,1924 in Buzeu, Romania and has lived and worked in Tewksbury, MA since 1967. From the age of 17 Kaufman would constantly draw and his desire to be an artist grew each day.

While living in Romania with his parents and two siblings, Kaufman taught himself to draw and sculpt. His first project was a nude female figure whittled from his uncle's cane in 1941. His parents preferred a different profession for young Mico his mother wanted him to be a concert violinist and his father wanted him to be an accountant. WWII and three years of had labor in a Nazi concentration camp delayed Kaufman's dream until his release at age 21.

Kaufman's formal art training took place at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, Italy from 1947 to 1949 and then at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence from 1949 to 1951. When asked by the school officials why he thought he could sculpt, he showed them the nude female he whittled and they let him in. Mico was able to study at the academy on a scholarship before immigrating to America and settling in Massachusetts with his new wife Katia. He became a United States citizen in 1956.

Supporting a family made it difficult for Kaufman to work as an artist so he would occasionally deviate from his artistic path and do any job that would pay the rent and put food on the table. His free time would be spent working at his true genius sculpting. Kaufman received his first commission as a designer in the mid-1960s to redesign a logo for a restaurant chain. After that he decided to place his full attention at the act of sculpting.

During the 1960s and 1970s there was a huge demand for numismatic medals and Kaufman's career took off. He received many commissions at that time one for over 190 medals for the U. S. Bicentennial. Some of his 300 plus medals are portraits of scientist Albert Einstein, inventor Thomas Alva Edison, humorist Will Rogers, singer Michael Jackson, golfer Arnold Palmer, and U. S. presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush.

Later, Kaufman went on to create over 15 monuments two reside in England and several are located in Tewksbury and the Lowell, MA area.

Bronze monument subjects include:

Artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler at the Whistler House Museum of Art in Lowell, MA

French composer Claude Debussy at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell and in St. Germaine en Laye, France

The Christos G. Rouses Monument at the Lowell Police Department

Italia at the John F. Kennedy Civic Center in Lowell, MA

Humanitarian Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan at the Town Hall of Tewksbury, MA

Homage to Women, 1984 in Lowell, MA

St. Eugene at St. Joseph Shine in Lowell, MA

Kecoughtan Indian at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Hampton, VA

The Wamesit Indian in Tewksbury, MA

Tewksbury World War II Veterans Honor Roll in Tewksbury, MA

The Muster in Tewksbury, MA

Touching Souls in Tewksbury, MA and at the Tewksbury Abbey, outside the Visitor Centre, in Tewksbury, England

Bust of conductor Arthur Fiedler.

Kaufman also works with molten plastic a co-venture with the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. Brien Allardice of the National Plastics Center and Museum in Leominster, MA has stated "His stuff is very professional, abstract and very fluid. His work is more fine art than traditional art. It's the Picasso version of a painting."

Awards include:

The 1967 Alma & Ulysses Ricci, for the Best Conservative Painting or Sculpture, Rockport Art Association, Rockport, MA

1978 Sculptor of the Year, American Numismatic Association, Houston, TX

1992 J. Sanford Saltus Award, "for signal achievement in the art of the medal," American Numismatic Society, New York City

1st prize, North Shore Art Association, Gloucester, MA

Medal of Honor, Concord Art Association, Concord, MA.

Kaufman is listed in Who's Who in American Art, 1970 to Present and Who's Who in American Art in the East, 1975 to present.

PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATIONS:

American Medallic Sculpture Association in New York City

Fellow, American Numismatic Society in New York City

Fellow, the National Sculpture Society in New York City

Cambridge Art Association.

He had a solo exhibit at the Whistler House Museum of Art; the National Museum of Plastics; and the American Numismatic Society in 1992. Other exhibits include Colorado Springs, Co in 1987; the Audubon Artists; the Allied Artists of America in New York City; Helsinki, Finland in 1973 &1990; Krakow, Poland in 1975; Budapest, Hungary in 1977; Lisbon, Portugal in 1979; Florence, Italy in 1983; and Stockholm, Sweden in 1985.

"Why did I decorate the working smock that Whistler wears in my sculpture with butterflies? Because I was sure that this was what Mr. Whistler would have wanted me to do, if I had lived in his time." -- Mico Kaufman, August 28, 2002, commenting on the bronze sculpture of James Abbott McNeill Whistler at the Whistler House Museum of Art in Lowell, MA.

References: Dealer's Choice Biographical Encyclopedia of American Painters... page 736; Smithsonian Institution Research Information System; The Sun, Lowell, MA, March 2, 1997; Whistler House Museum of Art files.

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