Arnold Newman, Chaim Gross with ‘Happy Mother,’ 1942. Courtesy of the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation and the Arnold Newman Archive.
During the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair, sculptor Chaim Gross (1904-1991) spent two summer months outdoors, working in front of crowds that totalled some 80,000 people. “I would look them over and if they looked intelligent I would answer their questions but if not I would keep on working,” he told the New York Herald Tribune.
It wasn’t just tourists and passersby that stopped to see Gross work. LIFE Magazine photographer Eliot Elisofon also came by, and took several striking pictures of the sculptor, busy in the act of creation.
Those photos are part of a current exhibit, “Displayed: Stages for Sculpture,” on view until December 16 at the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation in New York. A practitioner of the “direct carving” method who created totemic human figures out of wood and stone, Gross was a perfect subject for photographers who wanted to capture his creative process.