George Segal (American 1924 - 2000) was an acclaimed American artist, known mainly for his sculpture. Segal was born in New York to Eastern European parents. His family ran a butcher shop in the Bronx and then moved to New Jersey to farm chickens. He spent his early life working on his family’s farm, but showed an interest in art from an early age. Segal returned to New York as an adolescent to attend Stuyvesant High School, then went on to study art at Cooper Union. During World War II, he helped his family on the farm, but afterwards continued his art education at Pratt and New York University, where he studied with the abstract expressionist William Baziotes. He began his career as an abstract painter, but always grounded his work in the real world rather than pure abstraction. In an interview, Segal noted, “my teachers were abstract painters. But I was overwhelmed by the necessity of reality- by the real world. I had to introduce the real world into my art.” (Christian Science Monitor, October 1997)
In 1946, Segal and his wife Helen bought their own chicken farm in New Jersey. To support his family, Segal taught art and English both at a local high school and at Rutgers University. In the late 1950s, Segal started showing regularly at the Hansa Gallery, where other young artists connected to pop art and abstract expressionism also exhibited. In 1957, Segal’s close friend and fellow artist Allan Kaprow used the chicken farm as the site of his first Happening. Segal himself resisted association with any particular movement. He said, “artists are always bundled and bunched into schools. But it boils down to each individual artist looking for his own language.” The following year, Segal began experimenting more in sculpture, and in 1960 exhibited several plaster figures at a one man show at the Green Gallery. Although these sculptures would become his best known works, Segal still remained intrigued by painting and what he called the “brilliant color and juiciness” of pastels.
Over the next few decades, Segal constantly experimented in sculpture and developed new techniques for casting. He remained associated with the pop art movement, although Segal’s work stayed firmly grounded in personal experience. Towards the end of his life, Segal worked with photography and drawing, along with sculpture, demonstrating his fierce creativity until his death in 2000.