Born 1920, Chicago, Illinois
Died June 9, 2006, New Hope, Pennsylvania
"Rosenwald's [movable] sculpture, so carefully fabricated, must be 'perfect' to work. He feels his ideas develop through trial and error, and calls this process 'magic': 'When I'm finished, I'm often amazed at how they work. They make unexpected moves, and that is magic".
- from an exhibition flyer, Anne Reid Gallery, Princeton, NJ, 1996
Robert L. Rosenwald was born in Chicago in 1920. As son of the founder of Sears Roebuck retail store, Robert spent his childhood at the family home, Alverthorpe in Abington. Interestingly, his childhood home today holds The Abington Art Center and The Jenkintown Music School.
He was introduced to sculpture at an early age by his famed teacher, Boris Blai, of the Oak Lane Country Day School in Philadelphia. Rosenwald later attended the Cranbrook Academy of Art where he became casting assistant to the Swedish sculptor, Carl Milles. He continued this apprenticeship for four years, learning from many talented mentors including; metal smith, Harry Bertoria, designer, Charles Eames, and Eero Saarinen. He went on to study the history of print making with Paul Sacks at the Fogg Museum of Harvard University, and he later studied sculpture with Ossip Zadkine in Paris, France.
In the early 1950s, he founded Galerie 8 on the Left Bank of Paris, France. It was a gallery where American artists could freely exhibit their works, and was also the place where his work was originally exhibited.
In the 1950s and 1960s, he worked with marble, stone, and wood at his studio near Columbus Circle in Manhattan. His work was featured in group shows at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
In 1968, Rosenwald moved to New Hope and began to work exclusively in kinetic sculpture. Mobiles entranced him and ultimately inspired him to develop his kinetic sculptures. Many of his kinetic works are motivated by the wind and based on the geometric shape of the tetrahedron which has the smallest number of sides a solid form. He liked to use this shape because it presented a challenge which was an integral part of his art. The fun, magic, and wonder of generating motion became one of his greatest passions. He started with wind mills; the first was a 21 ft. aluminum sculpture for the Solebury School in Solebury, New Hope called Windmill, another for Bucks County Community College, and one by the New Hope Lambertville Bridge. This piece, The Sign of the Times, was installed in 1988. These impressive, large-scale kinetic sculptures can still be enjoyed.
As an avid chess player, Rosenwald devoted much of his time to the design of creative chess sets. These chess sets were made of painted poster board. He created 60 sets, all collapsible, portable, and boxed with folding boards.
Robert Rosenwald, photograph by John Larsen, n.d., photo courtesy Robert Rosenwald, James A. Michener Art Museum archives