Sunday, November 8, 2015

Happy Birthday Sculptor Nathan (Natan) Rapoport (1911-1987)


Nathan Rapoport at work in his studio. Photo from Nathan Rapoport Sculptures and Monuments.

Warsaw, Poland.  Warsaw Uprising Monument. Nathan Rapoport, sculptor. dedicated 1948. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber

Warsaw, Poland.  Warsaw Uprising Monument. Nathan Rapoport, sculptor. dedicated 1948. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber

 
Warsaw, Poland.  Warsaw Uprising Monument. Nathan Rapoport, sculptor. dedicated 1948. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber

 Warsaw, Poland.  Warsaw Uprising Monument. Nathan Rapoport, sculptor. dedicated 1948. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber

 Warsaw, Poland.  Warsaw Uprising Monument. Nathan Rapoport, sculptor. dedicated 1948. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber

Happy Birthday Sculptor Nathan (Natan) Rapoport (1911-1987)
by Samuel D. Gruber

(ISJM) Yesterday was the birthday of sculptor and monument maker Nathan Rapoport, best known for his Monument to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, dedicated in 1948 as one of the very first memorial to the dead of the Holocaust and still among the most recognized and popular such monuments today. I've written about this monument a few times, including here, where I wrote:
Though grand when first unveiled atop the rubble of the Ghetto, the Rapoport monument seems smaller now. It still commands the plaza on which it sits, but the plaza now has the intimacy of a familiar room. When I was last there a few old people were sitting on benches near the shrubbery, and a few children were playing. While the monument was originally pitched to a stadium-sized audience, now it is quieter, more like chamber music, but richer and subtler than it was before. Sixty-five years has not dimmed its message, but it has broadened it. While the children played, one man came and placed flowers at the monument base.

We now want much more from the monument, and I wish that for a generation or so it could be turned around so that the little-viewed (and rarely-reproduced) low relief on the back of the monument that shows the Jewish victims processing (to their deaths) could a greater focus of memory. Viewing that moving relief – that recalls the procession of Roman soldiers carrying the spoils of the Temple on the Arch of Titus in Rome, and thus a history of Jewish tragedy – is the first step toward transition to the Umschlagplatz.
This was before the new musuem was built which changes the nature of the monument yet again. The fullest account of its history and design is by James Young (Texture of Memory, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995, Chapter 5, “The Biography of a Memorial Icon: Nathan Rapoport’s Warsaw Ghetto Monument,” 155-184). A version of the monument was also installed at Yad Vashem, in Israel. Rapoport went on to make many important monuments in Israel and the United States. 

Rapoport was a figurative and monumental sculptor who looked to antiquity and the Renaissance for inspiration, including ancient sarcophagi, the Rome's Column of Trajan and Micheleangelo's David (the inspiration his statue of Mordecai Anilewicz, leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, who instead of carrying David's slingshot, is presented holding a hand grenade. Rapoports was more the heir of Mark Antokolsky than a contemporary Jewish abstract sculptors Ibram Lassaw and Seymour Lipton or even Jacques Lipchitz whose work does seem to influenced Rapoport 1964 Monument to Six Million Jewish Martyrs in Philadelphia. 

Rapoport was born in Warsaw, and spent most of World War II living and working in Russia. Afterwards he moved to Paris and then lived in Israel before coming to the united States in 1959, where he became a citizen in 1965.

Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, Israel. Mordecai Anilewicz Monument,  Nathan Rapoport. Photo from Nathan Rapoport Sculptures and Monuments

Scroll of Fire, Forest of the Martyrs, Israel. Nathan Rapoport, sculptor, 1971. Photo  from Nathan Rapoport Sculptures and Monuments
 
Philadelphia, PA (USA). Monument to Six Million Jewish Martyrs, 1964. Nathan Rapoport, sculptor.

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