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Distributed for Brandeis University Press

Sculpting a Life

Chana Orloff between Paris and Tel Aviv

The first biography of sculptor Chana Orloff.
Sculpting a Life is the first biography of sculptor Chana Orloff (1888–1968), and the first work to include stories from her unpublished memoir. Paula J. Birnbaum weaves a wide range of interviews and archival sources into a compelling narrative, exploring the artist’s early life in Ukraine, her family’s move to Palestine, her years in Paris during two World Wars and thereafter from time to time in Israel. Orloff sought and received strong critical endorsement of her work in France and Israel, however her own sense of home was always in question. Her multiple migrations and forced exiles, combined with her gender and Jewish identities, had a cumulative effect on her life and her art.  By examining the impact of exile and living in different countries this book provides a new lens through which to look at artists’ lives and works, especially women and gender-nonconforming artists, who may identify as multinational or placeless. Women artists like Orloff have been overlooked by history and excluded from the canon of modernism within art history. Sculpting a Life brings Orloff to the forefront, tells her story at long last, and shows her historical and artistic significance.

400 pages | 16 color plates, 97 halftones | 6 x 9

HBI Series on Jewish Women

Art: Art--Biography

Women's Studies

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Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Ukrainian Beginnings, 1888-1905
Chapter 2: Moving to the Promised Land, 1905-1907
Chapter 3: Becoming a New Hebrew Woman, 1907-1910
Chapter 4: Paris: from Haute Couture to Avant-Garde, 1910-1913
Chapter 5: Forging a Career at the Onset of War, 1913-16
Chapter 6: Orloff during Wartime 1916-1919: Amazon, Mother, and Widow
Chapter 7: Portraitist of Montparnasse: 1919-25
Chapter 8: Villa Seurat: Building a Studio and a Community, 1926-1929
Chapter 9: Transatlantic Travel and Networks, 1929-1930
Chapter 10: From Paris to Tel Aviv: The Jewish Art World in the Pre-State period of 1930s
Chapter 11: Occupation and Escape, 1938-1942
Chapter 12: Exile and Return, 1942-1948
Chapter 13: “Israeli Artist of the École de Paris,” 1948-1968
Chapter 14: Conclusion: Legacy in Israel & France


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