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 Emory Pius Seidel  (1881 - 1954)

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Lived/Active: Illinois/Minnesota/Maryland      Known for: child figure allegorical sculpture, commercial art

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Ad Code: 3
Emory Pius Seidel
from Auction House Records.
Art Deco bronze figural centerpiece
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Emory P. Seidel, The Man and His Work
By Helen Antisdale 1914
 
One hundred words would be ample to tell all Mr. Seidel said of himself when he was interviewed.  The pronoun “I” was noticeably absent from his conversation.  From his German ancestors comes a certain direct, matter-of-fact way of replying to questions.

He was born in Maryland.  His people were also born in this country.  Ever since he can remember, he has modeled.  Not until he was ten years of age did he commence to study drawing.  Later he studied under Ephraim Keyser in the Maryland Institute of Baltimore.  He has also worked under Charles Mulligan, of Chicago.

Though my questions about his life history were answered with a patient courtesy, I knew it was of his work, not of himself, he preferred to talk. What possible difference could it make where he was born or where he had studied? The sculptor is judged by the measure of creative ability expressed in his work. The work is the important part of the man. Autobiographical details are inconsequential. I fancy this was the tenor of his thought.

Mr. Seidel models in clay, guided by color and light and shade rather than by form and line.  He tints the clay he uses, emphasizing shadows of folds, making the background of a bas-relief darker than the figure itself.  The color he uses is a soft dull green. The different tints of this are often scarcely distinguishable in the model, so perfectly are they blended, yet when photographed they produce wonderful tone effects.

The raised letters which he makes for commercial work are the most conspicuous example of the wonderful carrying power created by tonal differences.  It was most interesting to learn how he makes these letters “stand out” so well. First he prepares a two-layer sheet of clay, the lighter clay on the surface.  On this he outlines the letters. Then he cuts away the clay surrounding the text.  He “undercuts” to the desired extent.

When photographed, this lettering “carries” better than any other kind. Mr. Seidel has a splendid knowledge of spacing, and is very precise in his work.  He takes all his own photographs, thereby getting just the effects he plans.

He draws no line between commercial and non-commercial work. Among his so-called commercial pieces are some wonderfully beautiful children. Almost in the center of his studio a plump little baby laughs over his shoulder at a butterfly.  The baby is perched on a branch of oak leaves, which sweeps across the bottom of a circular opening in a wide panel screen of clay.  This baby appeared on the cover of the Baby Book of Sears, Roebuck & Co.

On another panel is a little girl eating her bowl of bed-time porridge.  IT shows a very tired little girl, sitting on her mother’s lap, being fed. This figure was used by Postum Cereal Company.

Occasionally he uses bas-reliefs of children for the panels on art calendars.

Mr. Seidel does not limit himself to modeling children and letters. Nothing seems too detailed for him to fashion in miniature. Automobiles, hotel entrances and locomotive engines, all find their place in his work.  The Four of a Kind advertisement for the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway shows a relief of four huge engines perfect in every detail from automatic couplers to air whistles.  The bas-relief of the Mechanics’ Institute of Boston is among his latest works.

The splendid figure of Justice, the Sears-Roebuck trade-mark, is also his work.  It is a model of a woman holding the scales of justice.

The designing calendars he show his versatility.  For the outer panels he will make bas-reliefs.  The center maple may be a photograph of another piece of relief work which he has colored, or it may be a picture he has painted.  He uses all sorts of designs from cherubs to Indians and canoes.  The largest calendar houses in the country use his work. The Osborne Company, of New York, Brown & Bigelow, of St. Paul, Gerlach-Barklow Company, of Joliet, all use his designs.

Not all his bas-reliefs are used for calendars and other commercial purposes. He has made a beautiful pair of panels for his own little girl’s nursery. Then there is a modern Madonna, a “real” looking mother with a contented baby in her arms. The relief called “Virginia” is of his own child. “Virginia,” though thoughtful, is not as serious as the little girl whose portrait bust Mr. Seidel regards as among his best pieces.

“She spoke much, but I never saw her smile,” was his comment. And the little mouth he has modeled, really looks as though it were unaccustomed to laughing. The bridge of the nose is rather straight for a child of three.  Mr. Seidel has given this little three-year-old the most wistful eyes I have ever seen.  All the eyes in his models are wonderfully lifelike.

In decided contrast to these baby faces is a portrait bust of a man.  It possesses strength and virility.

The Tease is a small cast, another model of Virginia.  In this she is holding a carrot just out of the reach of a long-eared bunny.  The childish abandon in the pose, the mischief in her eyes, the action ---all help make it one of his most attractive pieces.

Babes in the Woods is another panel with babies in the square opening. One baby has eaten its fill and fallen asleep.  The other is wide-awake and still nibbling.

Mr. Seidel prefers modeling children. He says they do not pose and that they are unaffected.  He gets them to play about the studio, interests them in doing something.  He watches them ten minutes and works for one.

“In childhood the lines of the face are unfixed. The expressions are more subtle, the curves run one into the other.  With age come the definitely developed facial planes. The adult seldom assumes an absolutely natural expression when sitting for a portrait.”

He tells of a man who wished a portrait sketch made. He was so utterly unnatural in pose it seemed hopeless to try to obtain a good likeness. Mr. Seidel gave him a palette and paints and told him to make a picture.  This he endeavored to do. The man became so interested in his work that he quite forgot himself.

Meanwhile, Mr. Seidel modeled busily. The result was a sketch in which the man is so perfectly balanced and the poise so natural that with all the supporting clay removed the figure stands alone.

“After all,” said Mr. Seidel, “modeling is just drawing in the round. Modeling is the more difficult, for we must use monotone materials. We have not the colors the artists use. We must create the colors, the feeling, the shadow.

“The sculptor must study anatomy, learn the structure of the normal human body, especially the placing of the muscles and nerves of the face—then forget what he has learned –he must not see what should be—but see the individual defects and peculiarities and depict them.”

Mr. Seidel is the only man in the Palette and Chisel Club to uphold the term “Chisel.”  From May 4 to 23 he is to have an exhibition in the club rooms.  Several of the pieces he will exhibit have won prizes in former exhibitions.

Oh, yes—his work has been awarded prizes, some in St. Paul, and some at the Maryland Institute.  When I spoke of admiring The Tease, he showed me a letter from the jury of awards of the Minnesota State Exhibition.  It contained high praise for his work, mentioning particularly The Tease and A Spare Moment.  But in speaking of these prizes he gives you the impression that he feels they are a tribute to the intrinsic beauty of his work, not a tribute to him, personally.  Always it is of his work, not of himself, that he thinks and speaks.
 
Final notes by Colleen:
 
In addition to the previous article, my research uncovered the information that Emory Pius Seidel was born May 14, 1881, to Emerson and Amelia A. Seidel in Maryland, USA. His parents were also both born in Maryland.  Emory has four bothers and one sister and he himself was a twin. Emory was married to Hildegard and they had three children:  David R., Virginia M., and Ann.  They lived in St. Paul Ward 7, Ramsey, MN in 1910.  He also resided at 535 Franklin Ave., River Forest, Cook County, IL, and his studio was at 111 W. Jackson, Chicago, Cook County, IL.
 
Emory Pius Seidel passed away April 23, 1954.  In the 1940 Census Occupation he was listed as:  Sculptor who worked 56 hours a week 52 weeks a year in 1939.  He had two years of college.
 

Submitted by Tom Shaw
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


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