“A Clear-Eyed Working Sculptor”: Nathaniel Kaz, 1917-2010
Nathaniel Kaz passed away December 13 at the age of 93. Kaz was a renowned sculptor, a founder member of the Sculptors Guild and a National Academician. He was an inveterate advocate of direct carving and traditional bronze casting, a denizen of Pietrasanta and an inspiring teacher. This tribute by MARY ELLEN SCHERL, President of the Sculptors Guild, was read in her absence at the memorial service to Kaz on December 29, 2010 and draws on words also written for the occasion by sculptor RICHARD HEINRICH.
In 1937 a small group of sculptors banded together to create the Sculptors Guild.
Chaim Gross –the first president, Paul Manship, Jose de Creft, Herbert Ferber, William Zorach, Jose De Rivera, and the youngest member, 30-year-old Nathaniel Kaz, were at the forefront of American Modernism.
The mission of the Guild, then and now, is to promote, encourage and serve as an advocate for sculpture and to make contemporary sculpture a relevant part of the cultural experience.
Ahead of their time and perhaps unwittingly defining “alternative space”, their first exhibition in 1938 was installed in an empty parking lot on Park Avenue.
Rejecting the traditional, their aesthetic shift greatly impacted the international art scene after WW2, bringing American Art to prominence.
Nathaniel was the last surviving founding member. As recently as 7 years ago he attended and spoke at a Sculptors Guild Annual Meeting. Memorably, it was my first Annual Meeting and it was held at the home and studio of Richard Heinrich. Richard and Nathaniel had the opportunity to spend some quiet time together. Moved by the encounter, Richard shares these words…
“Nathanial Kaz spent several hours in my studio during the reception. I spoke with him at great length as we sat having a couple of glasses of wine.
He left an indelible impression on me, as a sculptor who was there at the dawn of organizing the Guild. He was a strong proponent of the need for artists to have an independent voice.
His recollections of the early days and the sculptors who were members of the Guild were lucid and charmingly amusing.
His mind was sharp and I felt his still evident power and encouragement to keep working and helping each other have success.
He was a grand “mensch” and he will always be an inspiration of what it meant and means to be a clear-eyed working sculptor.”