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 Alexander Liberman  (1912 - 1999)

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Lived/Active: New York / Russian Federation      Known for: large-scale metal sculpture, op-abstract

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Ad Code: 3
Alexander Liberman
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in 1912 in Kiev, Russia, Alexander Liberman became an academic and post-Impressionist painter in Europe before moving to the United States in 1941. From that time, he painted and sculpted in abstract styles, often using the circle which he asserted was the ideal shape. In his sculpture, he was revolutionary because of his use of industrial materials, factory building methods, and large-scale size.

The first nine years of his life, he lived in Kiev with his family where the father was in the lumber business and his mother was devoted to the theatre. The Libermans left Russia in 1921, and Alexander studied in England and France, first in London and then in Paris with Andre Lhote from 1929 to 1931. He studied philosophy and mathematics at the Sorbonne and architecture at Ecole des Beaux-Arts. In the 1930s, Liberman designed stage sets, and worked briefly with a landscape architect. He earned money by working as an assistant to the poster designer Cassandre, and did editorial and technical work for the magazine "Vu," one of the earliest illustrated periodicals and the first magazine to include photographs. Eventually he became managing director, but left the business in 1936 to focus on painting, writing and filmmaking.

In 1940, he escaped with his family to an unoccupied zone in France, and via Spain, the family arrived in New York in 1941. Again he took employment in the publishing business, this time at "Vogue" magazine. Twenty years later, he became Editorial Director of all the Conde Nast Publications, and he held this job until 1994, when he retired. He was responsible for much of the leading-edge aspects of the magazine by commissioning work by avant-garde artists such as Joseph Cornell, Salvador Dali, Marc Chagall, and Marcel Duchamp. He had the distinction of being the only publisher allowed to print images of the Matisse chapel in Vence, France, and he used drip paintings by Jackson Pollock as backdrops for fashion shoots.

By the mid-1950s, Liberman had also progressed with his own creative efforts as a painter and photographer and was exhibiting in galleries and museums in New York City. In 1959, he began welding steel, and started making sculpture on a large scale that required industrial machinery and eventually a large staff of assistants to meet the increasing demand for his work. It was said of him, that he emulated the industrialization that he found so impressive in America when he emigrated in 1941.

He gained prestigious public commissions beginning in 1963 when architect Philip Johnson hired him to do a work for the 1963 Worlds Fair in New York City. One of his first public commissions was from the architect Philip Johnson for a pavilion at the 1963 World's Fair.

Liberman died in November, 1999 at the age of 87.

His sculptures and paintings are in many collections including the Metropolitan Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Corcoran, Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Tate Gallery in London, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In addition, Storm King Art Center has three monumental Liberman sculptures in it's collection.

Peter Falk, "Who Was Who in American Art"
Glenn Opitz, "Dictionary of American Sculptors"
Alexander Lieberman (Liberman) was born in Kiev, Russia in 1912. He became an academic and post-Impressionist painter in Europe before moving to the United States in 1941. From that time, he painted and sculpted in abstract style, often using the circle, which he asserted, was the ideal shape. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy and mathematics from the Sorbonne in Paris in 1930 and studied painting with Andre Lhote. He earned money by working as an assistant to the poster designer Cassandre and did editorial and technical work for one of the earliest illustrated periodicals.

In 1936 Lieberman began to paint seriously, but after becoming a United States citizen, he turned to complete abstraction in both painting and sculpture. The colors he used were plain primary colors, rather than the complicated relational colors of the usual abstract expressionist work. Instead of free drawing, he used ruler and compasses. Rather than drips or splashy brushwork, he went in for the most even and perfectly crafted skin of paint. He sent paintings out to be fabricated by craftsmen or sign painters. At the time, other artists frowned on his methods as "mechanical." But things changed and his exclusion from the official scene came to be considered an error.

For thirty-four years Liberman also served as editorial director of Conde Nast. He became great friends with S.I. Newhouse who was chairman of Conde Nast; they shared a love of art and together spent many hours cruising art galleries for possible purchases. Liberman was also a serious photographer, focusing mostly on the most important artists of the time. At the same time Liberman became close friends with these artists. Liberman and his wife, Tatiana who was a hat designer for Saks, presided over one of New York 3's great salons. They regularly threw parties for artists, writers, critics and titled Europeans at their Upper East Side apartment. Unfortunately Liberman never shared the esteem enjoyed by the subjects of his camera lens. Liberman died in 1999.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artis and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

From the internet,
Robert Hughes in Time Magazine (Date unknown)
Articles by Holly Myers and Irene Lacher in Calendar section of LA Times (dates unknown)

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

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