1906 (New York, New York)
1991 (North Egremont, Massachusetts)
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|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Sculptor Herbert Ferber was born in New York City in 1906 with the name
of Herbert Ferber Silvers. His love of literature sparked his
artistic talents, beginning with an interest in the history of art,
which inspired him to go to museums in New York City as much as he
could in the late 20s. |
From college he went on to dental
school, and it was there when he had to make anatomical drawings that
he discovered he had a talent for naturalistic drawing. Ferber was
encouraged by a teacher in dentistry, who was a collector of work by
Abraham Walkowitz, to carry on with art as an "extra-dental interest."
a year of dental school, he began to attend the Beaux Art Institute of
Design, which was distantly affiliated with the Ecole de Beaux Arts in
Paris. Ferber attended at night from 1927 to 1930, working first
from plaster casts and then from the model, while going to art
galleries. During those years, he also traveled in Europe, where
he was introduced to sculpture of Ernst Barlach and German
In 1930 he became a dentist. Shortly
thereafter, he made his first wood and stone carvings, combining solid
masses with blunt contours, as in To Fight Again, 1936-37, in the Museum of Modern Art, New York City. At the time, his subject matter was symbolic yet realistic.
1940, however, he began to make wood pieces by gluing and fastening
with dowels, and through the mid-1940s, under the influence of European
sculptors, Ossip Zadkine and Henry Moore, his forms grew more slender
and open. Images of reclining women, for instance, became curved
and bent arabesques in space.
After experimenting with soldered
metal (by 1945) and the blowtorch (in 1949), Ferber evolved his style
to include jagged forms that broke the once-flowing outlines of his
earlier pieces. Created in the surroundings of Surrealism, the
new sculptures were among the earliest Abstract Expressionist
sculptural pieces then being made. Examples are Labors of Hercules, 1948, New York University and Portrait of Jackson Pollock, 1949, Museum of Modern Art, both in New York City.
new pieces, abstracted from nature, appeared to some viewers as
threatening with hooks, spikes, knobs and projections. They
either sprawled around an implied center or lifted up vertically from
After receiving a commission for the façade
sculpture of the B'nai Israel Synagogue, Millburn, New Jersey in
1950-52 one of several religious commissions, Ferber began to eliminate
the sculptural base. Exploring this idea in both freestanding and
hanging works, in 1954 he came upon the idea of "roofed sculpture," in
which parts were raised from a flat base and hung from an attached
ceiling, as in Sundial, 1956, Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.
1958, these pieces had been enlarged to architectural scale.
Known as Environmental Art, they did not create voids and spaces within
themselves as much as help define the space of the entire
environment. One such piece is installed in the Art Gallery of
Rutgers University where he had been a visiting professor.
Through the 1960s, he explored related ideas using relatively thin rods
of sculpture to envelop spaces. Some of these were made from
In the 1970s, Ferber began to devote considerable time to painting.
He died in 1991.
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art
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