Ben Galos (1894-1963)
Ben Galos was born Berel Goloschin in Vitebsk, Belarus in September, 1894. He studied with Yehuda Pen and Marc Chagall, most likely at the Vitebsk Art School established by Pen for Jewish art students. Galos emigrated to New York in 1913 with his father (Hirsch), mother (Alte), older sister (Ruoke), and twin brother and sister (Mordche and Sore).
Once in New York the family name was changed to Galos. Ben Galos studied at the National Academy of Design in New York. He received second prize upon graduation from the Academy, and first prize at the Washington Square exhibition in 1938. In 1948 he was also awarded a prize at the Pepsi Cola exhibition. His works were exhibited at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, the ACA Gallery, the National Academy of Design (1942, 1945, 1949), the Audubon Artists, and other locations. He was a member of the Allied Artists of America.
Galos appears to have been poor and single. For most of the 1930’s Galos lived at 466 East 10th Street. His 1934 petition for naturalization indicates that he was single and unemployed, though a produce dealer and a restaurant owner from Brooklyn (possible employers?) both vouched for him. In this petition he renounced any allegiance to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. By 1942 Galos had moved a few blocks away to 216 East 15th Street. Since his 1942 draft registration listed the WPA at 110 King Street as his employer – the WPA art program was nearing extinction by this date – it appears Galos was once again unemployed. Ironically, 110 King Street is now the unemployment office for the NYS Department of Labor.
Galos wanted his works to be accessible while also being artistically sophisticated. He described the artist’s dilemma as follows:
“Should [the artist] satisfy the unsophisticated mass audience or make his appeal to the more perverse and jaded appetites? The sincere and truly gifted artist will have no difficulty in solving the dilemma. His talent will always guide him to the creation of works which, while expressing his own moods and beliefs, at the same time influence and exalt his audience.”
Galos painted primarily in oil, and his work included portraits, landscapes, and especially cityscapes. In his 1947 one-man show at the Gramercy Galleries 22 of his 26 paintings on exhibit were urban scenes of New York City and its environs.
During the Depression Galos worked for the WPA. His painting East Side Market is a good example of a Galos cityscape with a crowd of typical city dwellers congregating around pushcarts. This painting was done during Galos’ WPA period and his name is signed on the back. It may have also been exhibited in the one-man show at Gramercy Galleries in 1947.
Paintings by Galos are in the collections of the Smithsonian (Back Street), the New York Historical Society (Madison Square Park East), Brooklyn College, and Ain Harod Museum in Israel. He also completed murals for St. Monica’s Roman Catholic Church in New York City, and for Daly’s Theatre.
Galos was residing at 2239 Grand Avenue in the Bronx when he died in May, 1963 at the age of 68. He was survived by a brother, Max, and a sister, Sonia Slocum. Upon Sonia Slocum’ s death she was buried in a plot at Mt. Hebron Cemetery in Queens, NY adjacent to Ben Galos.
(1) Falk, Peter Hastings (editor), Who Was Who in American Art: 1564-1975, Sound View Press, 1999.
(2) Lozowick, Louis. 100 Contemporary American Jewish Painters and Sculptors, Art Section, YKUF, 1947.
(3) The New York Times, “Ben Galos, 67, Portraitist and Painter of Landscapes,” May 20, 1963.
(4) Ancestry.com, various records.
Written and submitted by Steven Wasser, www.AmericanJewishArt.com