(1922 - 2000)
Leonard Baskin was active/lived in Massachusetts, New York. Leonard Baskin is known for Sculpture, painting, illustration, writing, printmaking.
click to hear
Biography from the Archives of askART
A highly respected draftsman, printmaker, teacher, and sculptor,
Leonard Baskin had the ability to depict in an abstract style man and
his relation to the world. Whether working with bronze or wood or
two-dimensional mediums, his focus remained on large heroic, but flawed
human beings who at times recall photographic images of
concentration-camp victims or birds with human bodies that suggest
Biography from Annex Galleries
Born in 1922 in New Brunswick, New Jersey,
Baskin studied sculpture with Maurice Glickman at the Educational
Alliance, New York City, from 1937 to 1943. He had many influences at
that time including Ossip Zadkine, Henri Laurens, and Alexander
In 1949, he began to make wood engravings, and his
attitude toward the nature of man grew more generalized, but no less
moralistic or didactic. In style these works are closest to German Die
Brucke prints. At this time he studied abroad at the Academie de la
Grande Chaumiere, Paris, and the Accademia di Belle Arti, Florence.
During this period, he got extensive familiarization with the Great
European Collections, many which helped release in him the sculptural
images he has since used.
For many years, he was a professor of sculpture at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Matthew Baigell. The Dictionary of American Art
Printmaker, sculptor and book designer, Leonard Baskin was born in New
Brunswick, New Jersey, the son of a rabbi. In 1937-39 he studied
with the sculptor Maurice Glickman, and in 1939 had his first one-man
show in NewYork. He attended New York (1939-41) and Yale
(1941-43) universities and then served in the U.S. Navy during World
War 11 before continuing his studies at the New School for Social
Research in New York.
Biography from R. Michelson Galleries
The year of his graduation (1949) Baskin began making prints. In
1950 he went to Paris and studied at the Acadamie de la Grande
Chaumiare, and the following year to Florence to work at the Accademia
di Belle Arti. Baskin's traditional training and his conviction
that art should serve one's fellow man made him a rather unique figure
during the 1950s, when abstraction and the expression of one's personal
feelings held sway. Rather than experimenting with new formal
structures, media, or techniques, Baskin developed a mastery of old
techniques -woodcarving, woodcuts, etching, and lithography-and
determined to use his work for social ends. During the 1950s he
began a series of full-length standing figures of "dead men" in stone,
bronze, and wood. Related to these are his "Birdmen" (human
figures with bird heads that are reminiscent of certain statues of
Egyptian gods) and his "Oppressed Men" (often featuring an owl -another
favorite theme-standing on the head of a man). All of these
figures represent "universal man" struggling with the problems of life
and death, aspiration, immortality, and corruption. In his prints
Baskin extends the psychological overtones of his sculpture even
further, frequently producing powerful brooding, and even tortured,
images. Much of the strength of these works derives from his bold
cutting technique, which exploits the texture of the wood, and from his
mastery of black and white.
Perhaps the two greatest influences
on Baskin's work are Japanese calligraphy and German expressionism (the
artists he admires most are Kaethe Kollwitz and Ernst Barlach).
Defending the so-called "literary" or "journalistic" qualities of his
work, Baskin has noted: "All art is propaganda.... The communication of
an artistic idea is an act of propaganda." He has stated that for
him the most important subject is "anxiety-ridden man, imprisoned in
his ungainly self," and has illustrated this theme in such prints as
Hanged Man, Angel of Death, and Oppressed Bird with Human Aspects.
Like his black ink drawings on white paper, Baskin's graphics are
technically brilliant. His most recent work is a series of bronze
sculptures-many with an elegiac air-on the usual themes of death and
compassion, and like all his work they display an odd combination of
sophistication with the seemingly primitive." Baskin is often
termed a romantic humanist," perhaps a result of his disavowal of the
"purely decorative" and "the private world of the artist."
He has long been interested in book illustration and founded the
Gehenna Press, Northampton, Mass., which prints and publishes limited
editions. A typical volume would be Homed Beetles and Other Insects,
for which Baskin has provided thirty-four etchings; however, his
interest extends beyond illustration into total book design: the
integrating of type, paper, illustrations, and binding to form an
esthetic object. Baskin has taught at Smith College since 1953
and has won numerous awards including the Printmaking Prize at the Sao
Paulo Biennial (1961) and medals from the American Institute of Graphic
Arts (1965) and the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1969)
Leonard Baskin was born in 1922, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, to Rabbi
Samuel Baskin and May Guss Baskin. Religious themes as well as
mythological symbolism and images of human nature have been entwined
throughout his career, serving as the subjects of many of his works.
Baskin became intrigued by Greek history, philosophy and mythology at
an early age and now the central object of many of his sculptures and
paintings is the sibyl, the prophetic female from Greek mythology.
Biography from RoGallery.com
Baskin's best known image is the bird, either as subject matter in
itself, or as a form of life emanating from humanity, as a caricature
of perceived human ills. "The link between Baskin's images is his
humanism. His sculpture of the human figure depict the grace and
mystery of woman, pay homage to man the individual. Other works, in
sculpture and on paper, portray the evil side of humankind. Although
Baskin treats the frailties and injustice of humankind in all media,
his caring for human beings and the human condition is ever present."
sculpture, watercolors, and prints are in the permanent collections of
most of the world's major art galleries and museums, including the
Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, the Vatican
Museum, and the Smithsonian. Leonard Baskin's main focus throughout his
life was sculpture: "My sculptures are memorials to ordinary human
beings, gigantic monuments to the unnoticed dead: the exhausted factory
worker, the forgotten tailor, the unsung poet... Sculpture at its
greatest and most monumental is about simple, abstract, emotional
states, like fear, pride, love and envy... Over the years I have
developed a series of images of predatory birds and vicious human
beings as well as producing a bizarre motley of iconic devices that
An excerpt from Angel to the Jews, by John Whitney Payson, 1991
A highly known draftsman, printmaker and sculptor, Leonard Baskin had
the ability to depict in an abstract style man and his relation to the
world. Whether working with bronze or wood or two-dimensional
mediums, his focus remained on large heroic, but flawed human beings
who at times recall photographic images of concentration-camp victims
or birds with human bodies that suggest mythological forms, i.e. Crow Man in walnut, 1962.
Biography from The Columbus Museum of Art, Georgia
in 1922 in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Baskin studied sculpture with
Maurice Glickman at the Educational Alliance, New York City, from 1937
to 1943. He had many influences at that time including Ossip
Zadkine, Henri Laurens, and Alexander Archipenko.
In 1949, he
began to make wood engravings, and his attitude towards the nature of
man grew more generalized, but no less moralistic or didactic. In
style these works are closest to German Die Brucke prints. At
this time he studied abroad at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere,
Paris, and the Accademia di Belle Arti, Florence. During this
period, he got extensive familiarization with the Great European
Collections, many which helped release in him the sculptural images he
has since used.
For many years, he was a professor of sculpture at Smith College in Northhampton, Massachusetts.
Leonard Baskin was born in 1922 in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and was
raised in Brooklyn, New York. (1) From 1937 to 1943, he studied
sculpture with Maurice Glickman at the Educational Alliance in New York
City. At the age of 17, he had his first exhibition of sculpture
at Glickman's Studio Gallery. Baskin studied at Yale University
from 1941 to 1943, and he earned a B.A. at the New School for Social
Research in 1949.
Biography from Boca Raton Museum of Art
In the early 1950s, Baskin studied in Florence and Paris. He
taught printmaking and sculpture at Smith College in Northhampton,
Massachusetts for 21 years beginning in 1953. During this time,
he founded Gehenna Press, which published more than 100 fine-art
Baskin created many important public commissions, including sculpture
for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Woodrow Wilson
Memorial, in both Washington D.C., and the Holocaust Memorial in Ann
Arbor, MI. The artist received numerous honors, among them the
Jewish Cultural Achievement Award, the Gold Medal of the National
Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
His works are in major public institutions, such as the Metropolitan
Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago,
and the British Museum.
Although he worked as a printmaker, draftsman, and book designer,
Baskin's principal focus throughout his life was sculpture. He
was a traditionalist who carved in wood and stone, and modeled in
clay. The inspiration for his work came from a variety of
sources, including the Bible, ancient Greek literature and
modern Western poetry. As the son of a Rabbi, Baskin was educated
at a yeshiva; Jewish imagery was to be an important element of his
The iconic, monolithic imagery of Ancient Egyptian and Sumerian art
influenced the formal aspects of his work. He was an outspoken
critic of naturalism, which he argued is concerned only with physical
truths, and abstraction, which he saw as forsaking the human
figure. He considered the human figure to be the main subject
matter of his work, and he used the human figure and various animals as
visual allegories for human spirituality. He was very interested
in both the imperfections of humanity and the fact that human beings
bear the image of God. Baskin's use of avian or animal images, such as
the raven and dogs, allowed him to explore this duality.(3)
(1). Biographical information taken from the following: Irma B. Jaffe, The Sculpture of Leonard Baskin, New York: Viking, 1980; Jaffe, "Baskin, Leonard," in the Grove Encyclopedia of Art; and John Payson, Leonard Baskin: Angels to the Jews, New York: Midtown Payson Galleries, 1991.
(2). A yeshiva is an Orthodox Jewish school.
(3). Thanks to Daphne A. Deeds, "Leonard Baskin," Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Lincoln, NE, 2000. The Sheldon exhibited Leonard Baskin: The Ultimate Need,
from May 9 - July 23, 2000. It was an exhibition of fourteen
artworks that surveyed the unique aesthetics of one of the twentieth
century's great draftsmen and expressionists, and was drawn primarily
from the Gallery's permanent collection. Kristen Miller Zohn, Columbus
Leonard Baskin (American, Born New Jersey 1922-2000)
** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
The son of a Rabbi, Baskin was educated at a yeshiva, which had a profound effect on his aesthetic. He studied at Yale University and received his B.A. at the New School for Social Research in 1949. In the 1950s, Baskin began teaching printmaking and sculpture at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, where he remained until 1974. In 1959 Baskin was included in the exhibition The New Images of Man, at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and in 1968, his sculpture was in the XXXIV Venice Biennale.
Religious themes as well as mythological symbolism and images of human nature have been entwined throughout his career, serving as the subjects of many of his works. Baskin's art is concerned with depicting the tensions and contradictions of the human condition through figurative expressionism. He utilizes the human figure as well as animals as visual metaphors for human spirituality, the tragic and comic elements of humanity, and an exploration of the "bestial" as well as the "divine" inherent in human existence.
Baskin's most prominent public commissions include sculpture for the Roosevelt Memorial and the Woodrow Wilson Memorial, both in Washington D.C., and the Holocaust Memorial in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His work is in major private and public institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the British Museum, and the Vatican Museums.
Baskin has received many awards and honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship. Baskin's work is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, The Nation Museum of American Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, The Seattle Art Museum, and the Vatican Museum.
Information provided by The Boca Raton Museum of Art. Catalina Torres (Intern)
Share an image of the Artist firstname.lastname@example.org.