George Segal was born in New York City in 1924. His parents ran a butcher shop on 174th Street in the Bronx. By the time Segal was attending Stuyvesant High School in Lower Manhattan, his family had moved to New Jersey to run a chicken farm. Segal, who stayed on with relatives in New York to finish high school, was later admitted to the prestigious Cooper Union Art School. When his older brother Morris was drafted in 1940, George moved from New York to New Jersey to help support his family on the farm. Segal went on to spend the rest of his productive life in the bedroom community of New Brunswick, New Jersey.
For decades throughout his art career, Segal traveled by bus into Manhattan. Entering the city through the Port Authority bus terminal on Fortieth Street and Eighth Avenue, Segal explored the hidden nooks of the city with his camera. Segal traveled to neighborhoods such as the Bowery and the East Village to experience the city and interact with its various inhabitants. As a native New Yorker, Segal was one of them. But as an artist, Segal's role shifted to that of observer. He then translated observation and insight into sculptural form, rendering vignettes of daily urban life into aggregates of ghostly—but realistic—plaster and bronze figures. Widely regarded as on of the 20th century's most influential sculptors, George Segal died in 2000.
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Friedman, Martin, and Graham W. J. Beal. George Segal: Sculptures. Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1978.
George Segal, Depression Bread Line, 1991, bronze, 108 x 148 x 36 inches inches. George Segal, Depression Bread Line, 1991. Bronze, 108 x 148 x 36 inches. Collection Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. © The George and Helen Segal Foundation/licensed by VAGA, New York. Gift of The George and Helen Segal Foundation with funds for casting provided by Bill and Jan DeAtley, James and Sylvia Vaccaro, a major grant from the Madison Community Foundation, Jim and Cathie Burgess, the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation, the Overture Foundation, and Tom and Martha Carter.
George Segal, SoHo at Night, New York, 1991. © Donald Lokuta/licensed by VAGA, New York.