Leonard Baskin

Leonard Baskin American sculptor and graphic artist, who tries to convey ethical judgments through his portraits of human figures. Religious matter, mythological symbolism and some images of human nature have been intertwined throughout his career, serving as the subject of many of his works.

Biographical synthesis

Son of a Jewish rabbi, Samuel Baskin, Leonard was born in 1922 in New Brunswick , New Jersey . He has made his most important works in sculpture, but he has achieved fame as an engraver and as an illustrator, perhaps because of the greater diffusion of the graphic work. Between 1953 and 1973 he taught sculpture and engraving at the Smith Collage, in Northampton , Massachusetts .


He founded the Gehenna Press publishing house, which he directed for more than twenty-five years and in which he published very careful editions of illustrated books, some of them with woodcuts made by himself. A retrospective exhibition was held in 1992 to celebrate 50 years of the publishing house, which traveled throughout the United States ; among other places, it was shown at the Grolier Club in New York and at the Library of Congress, Washington . In 1993 his illustrated children’s book Did You Say Ghosts , by writer Richard Michelson, was selected as “the best children’s book of the year” by The New Yorker magazine. Among other awards he has received the Medal of the American Institute of Graphic Arts and the Guggenheim Fellowship . In 1994 , he presented one of his most important works, the Jewish Holocaust Memorial Monument , in Ann Arbor , Michigan , located at the site of the first Jewish cemetery. The monument consists of a figure sitting with a fist on his face and a hand extended to the sky. In 1995 he was awarded by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture. In 1927 , he concluded what is perhaps his most important sculptural work, the monument in memory ofFranklin Delano Roosevelt . A series of waterfalls, which slide down granite walls to give in sparkling pools, provides the dramatic backdrop for the low relief, approximately ten meters long, carved by Bassin, which represents Roosevelt’s funeral procession. On May 2, 1997 , the president of the United States inaugurated this monument, installed in the city of Washington . Bassin’s sculptures, watercolors and prints are part of the collections of some important museums, such as the Vatican Museum and the Smithsonian.

Interested from a young age in the history of Greece, his philosophy and mythology, many of his sculptures and paintings have as their main character the “sibyl”, female prophetess of Greek mythology. Another of its most recurrent themes is the predatory bird, which represents it as a way of life that emanates from humanity and becomes a metaphor and cartoon of men’s vices. It also portrays the corrupt nature of men through the flabby faces and obese and unpleasant bodies of their characters. However, Bassin has also done totally opposite works, in which the characters, strong and modeled with sensitivity, radiate a dignity and a rectitude of enormous purity. In some of his sculptures of human figures he represents the grace and mystery of women, thus paying homage to the human individual.

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