George Segal (1924-2000)
George Segal (1924-2000)
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George Segal (1924-2000)

Lovers on a Bench

George Segal (1924-2000)
Lovers on a Bench
plaster, wood and metal
50 3/8 x 49 ¼ x 39 3/8in. (128 x 125 x 100cm.)
Executed in 1962
Galerie Ileana Sonnabend, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1968.
J. van der Marck, Segal, New York 1979, no. 19 (illustrated, p. 75).
S. Hunter and D. Hawthorne, George Segal, New York 1988, p. 363, no. 10 (illustrated, p. 140, pl. 129).
H. Peeters (ed.), Lovers on a Bench, Ghent 2015 (installation views illustrated, pp. 37, 39, 41, 43, 45-46).
Eindhoven, Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, 'three blind mice' de collecties: Visser, Peeters, Becht, 1968, no. 79 (installation views illustrated, pp. 34 and 49). This exhibition later travelled to Gent, Sint Pietersabdij.
Munster, Landesmuseum Münster, Everybody knows, 1972, no. 61, p. 80 (illustrated, unpaged).

Lot Essay

‘There is an almost systematic exploration in Segal’s work of how people sit or can be seated, with sloppy ease or calculated poise, self-exposure or introspection. Here two young people sit on a park bench, ready to have their picture taken. Then we notice that they are nude, which would seem to indicate an indoor setting. Segal is not as specific about the location as he is about the pose and genesis of this work.

The piece resulted from his knowing the models, newlyweds and always a couple in his recollection. The young man wanted to become a writer, and his wife was an aspiring painter who had on occasion posed for Segal. This had already established a casual atmosphere, and the idea of doing a double sculpture in the nude seemed quite natural to the artist and his models alike. In addition to being the first casting of nude bodies, it is also the artist’s first attempt at joining two casts together.

Segal’s main formal interest in making this sculpture was to work with limbs and their expressiveness in a stylized situation. A pose mocking togetherness shows the girl as the stronger and more dominating personality. It developed into a contemporary, matriarchal inversion of certain African sculptures, the artist notes, in which king and queen sit in tribal authority. This outcome surprised even Segal, but he explains that he lets his models gravitate toward a pose that comes naturally to them and then often allows his preconceived ideas to evolve or change accordingly.

In Lovers on a Bench Segal wanted to show his own sense of ease and casualness about the nude body, until then almost the exclusive subject of his drawings and pastels; this relaxation was not only shared but more strongly felt by his young models, who were that much closer to and familiar with today’s sexual revolution. The artist says of his work that he wants to give very strong clues and create situations of his own contriving: “On the one hand I deal with a situation that is unmistakably real, with the verisimilitude of things; on the other hand I speculate about the invisible, I refer to what is not there. That sets up psychological tensions”’ (J. van der Marck, Segal, New York 1979, p. 75).

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