Happy Mother

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Happy Mother

Artist - Chaim Gross
Born - 1904
Died - 1991
Origin - Austria
Year Built - 1958

About the Artist:  Chaim Gross's Happy Mother, 1958, explores a theme that Gross turned to frequently in the course of his career: the emotional bond between a mother and her children. In the 1959 catalogue for Four American Expressionists, Lloyd Goodrich described Gross's art as a "happy one, an embodiment of physical exuberance, of love expressed in physical play, of family happiness." Happy Mother, which was included in the exhibition, exemplifies Goodrich's description; the rough surfaces and angular formations of the work seem to enhance the gaiety of the scene, and the theme of maternal affection seems aptly expressed in the act of play.

Happy Mother was one of the Gross's first large bronzes. He began to explore casting in 1958 after a notable career as a direct carver. Born in the Carpathian Mountains of Austria, Gross and his family fled their home in Wolowa after the Russian invasion during World War I and lived several years as refugees. Gross immigrated to New York with his brother in 1921. Once in New York, Gross enrolled at the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design in 1925, studying under Elie Nadelman (1882-1946). Nadelman's experiments in wood sculpture may have had some effect on his student. By 1927, Gross concentrated on sculpture and studied direct carving with Robert Laurent (1890-1970) at the Art Students League. Through Laurent, Gross not only developed an affinity for woodcarving but also for African sculpture, which he collected later in life. The influence of African sculpture is not always apparent in Gross's sculpture, but the elongation of forms and the angular character of sculptures like Happy Mother may be seen as the result of his interests.

Happy Mother was the first piece purchased by Wichita State University in 1972. Recently, the piece was rededicated as part of the Martin H. Bush Outdoor Sculpture Collection in honor of the Edwin A. Ulrich Museum's twenty-fifth anniversary.