Off view

American, born Russia, 1889–1957
Aphrodite, CA. 1940–48
Hammered copper
14 in. x 8 ft. x 30 in. (35.6 x 243.8 x 76.2 cm)
Gift of the Ralph E. Ogden Foundation

Photo by Jerry L. Thompson
Russian-born American artist Saul Baizerman revitalized the classical tradition of the nude figure with his evocative hammered copper reliefs. In the early 1930s he discovered the expressive power of this direct metal technique while working on small bronzes. His father had been a harness maker in Russia, and had similarly employed hammers in his trade. For the preliminary shaping of the sheet metal, he used a rubber and wooden mallet; the more detailed work was done with a double-headed hammer. He worked both sides of the copper sheet simultaneously in a process central to his artistic expression.

Throughout his long, prolific career, Baizerman remained dedicated to the representation of the human form. He often conceived his figural reliefs on a heroic scale and gave them classicizing titles to impart a universal and timeless vision. Moreover, Baizerman employed the human figure as a metaphor for emotion or nature. He once said, “We sense in these pieces, although of human shape, movements of nature in rivers, in sloping mountains, in the flatness of fields … or the turbulence of the sea.” Aphrodite is a late work, completed when Baizerman was nearly sixty; it expresses his abiding concern for fluid movement and illustrates his use of the human figure to evoke a force of nature.