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 Abraham Wolfe Davidson  (1903 - 1981)

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Lived/Active: South Carolina      Known for: sculpture, painting

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Biography from Foothills Fine Art:
Abraham Wolfe Davidson (1903-1981)

He was born in the province of Vitebsk in Russia.  When he was eleven, his parents planned to escape increasing oppression against Jews in Russia by joining his four older brothers who already were in the United States.  Their departure was delayed by World War I and the Russian Revolution.

Davidson’s father disappeared and the family suffered through famine and other hardships, although Davidson was able to study for a short while at the Russian National Art School in Vitebsk.  In 1922, a brother smuggled Davidson and his mother out of Russia.  They joined his brothers in Greenville, South Carolina where Davidson continued his sculpture work and studied English.

Davidson worked and studied art in New York from 1924 to 1926, but became seriously ill from delayed effects of the famine he had experienced in Russia.  He returned to Greenville and spent several years recovering, working at a variety of jobs and continuing his sculpture work.  He also became an American citizen.

In 1934, Clemson student George Chaplin posed for a bust by Davidson. They discussed the possibility of Davidson creating a statue of Thomas Clemson in exchange for room, board and tuition.  Clemson administrators agreed and Davidson enrolled as a special student.  He lived at the Y.M.C.A and attended selected classes.  College officials gave him a studio and materials to work on the statue.

While working on the clay model of the larger statue, Davidson also completed busts of Thomas Clemson and President E. W. Sikes for the Library.  In addition, he worked on commissions other patrons and designed a commemorative half dollar for the sesquicentennial celebration of the city of Columbia, South Carolina.

In 1936, Davidson married and returned to Greenville where he helped organize the Greenville Art Association.  He worked for the Federal Art Project of the W.P.A. in organizing an art gallery that eventually developed into the Greenville County Museum of Art.  Davidson also taught at Greenville High School in the late 1930s.

From 1941 to 1942, A. Wolfe Davidson returned to New York to study at the Art Students League.  World War II interrupted his studies and he moved to Marietta, Georgia where he worked as a designer at Bell Aircraft.

In 1948, Davidson became director of the Art Department at Brenau College in Gainesville, Georgia.  He taught at Brenau College until he retired in 1966.  He continued to receive commissions for sculptures, mostly in Georgia and South Carolina and worked to develop techniques that would reduce the cost of casting and firing his work to make it more affordable.  In the 1950s Davidson took up painting in addition to sculpting.

A. Wolfe Davidson continued his association with Clemson throughout his life.  He created the cast stone relief of the 1940 Cotton Bowl for the front of the Field House (now Fike Recreation Center).  He was commissioned to create busts of Clemson presidents Robert F. Poole and Robert C. Edwards, Business Manager James C. Littlejohn, Architecture professor Rudolph E. Lee, Athletic Director Frank Howard and trustee James F. Byrnes.  In 1969, Tiger Brotherhood commissioned Davidson to create the cast aluminum tiger (“Brotherhood of the Tiger”) in front of Littlejohn Coliseum.  Shortly before Davidson’s death in 1981 he designed the Clemson Medallion.

Clemson University

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