Willard Hirsch, Prominent 20th Century Charleston Artist and Sculptor

Willard N. Hirsch was a leading figure in the Charleston Arts Community from 1945 until his death in 1982. He received his formal art training in New York City at the National Academy of Design and Beaux Arts Institute.

After completing his studies and exhibiting his work in New York, he returned to his native city of Charleston in the early 1940's to establish his studio in the region he loved and found inspiring.

Throughout his long and accomplished career, he remained active in his spacious Queen Street studio completing public and private commissions for state and governmental buildings, colleges, universities, and private collectors.

His sculpture is represented in national and regional collections including that of Brookgreen Gardens, The South Carolina State Museum,The Gibbs Museum of Art, Clemson University, The College of Charleston, SC State University, Ashley Hall School, The Charleston County Library System,The Richland County Public Library System, The City of Charleston (White Point Gardens and The Gaillard Municipal Auditorium), and SC National Guard Armory buildings statewide, to name a few. Click Here for a listing of his work from the Smithsonian Institution Archives of American Art.

I had the privilege of working for Mr. Hirsch as his studio assistant from 1979 to 1981.

Unlike artistic contemporaries such as William Halsey, Willard Hirsch's efforts to advance the Arts in Charleston during the later period of the "Charleston Renaissance" have not been as well documented for future reference.

Toward the end of his career, Mr. Hirsch was honored with a retrospective exhibition of his work by the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston. I am posting pictures I took of Mr. Hirsch, museum guests and his sculpture at the opening reception of that historic exhibit, because I haven't seen other accounts to record the event.

These pictures show but a small portion of this under recognized artist's contribution to the advancement of the Visual Arts in Charleston during his lifetime.

The scope and diversity of artwork presented by the exhibition organizer Gibbs Museum of Art Curator of Collections Martha R. Severnes was impressive. Included in the exhibition organized by the Gibbs Museum's  Curator of Collections Martha R. Severens were large scale works carved in exotic woods and stone. Bronze and terra-cotta figures representing themes from religion, mythology, and history were presented along with selected works from his extensive body of public and private portraiture.

It was and remains an unequaled, accomplished body of work by any sculptural artist in Charleston or the region from that time to the present.

Sculptor Willard Hirsch (rt.) explains an artistic concept.

Mrs. Willard N. Hirsch (nee: Mordenai Raisin) among displays of bronze and terra cotta portrait busts at the Gibbs Museum of Art, Lower Gallery.

Reception guests view "The Falling Angel" and a portrait bust of South Carolina's legendary Statesman, L. Mendel Rivers in the background.

The "Little Dancer", a popular figure of the Children's Fountain in White Point Gardens at Charleston's Battery, was prominently displayed along with a bas relief of children dancing and a sculpture of a young child.

Here are a few examples of the portraits assembled in one of the museum's main floor galleries. Many prominent Charleston families had several generations of family member's portraits sculpted by Mr. Hirsch in his long and prolific career.

In 1979, rows of commissioned portraits lined the shelves of bookcases in his Queen Street studio, as the artist signed a finished bas relief portrait.

Willard Hirsch's "Little Dancer" bronzes and a bas-relief portrait of Katherine M Schneider

Here is a photo of a bronze casting of the smaller version of Willard Hirsch's popular "Little Dancer". These bronze figures were cast in Marietta, Ga at a foundry to Mr. Hirsch's exacting specifications.

One morning a shipment of the bronzes arrived at Mr. Hirsch's Queen Street studio from the foundry in Ga. As I unpacked the figures under Mr. Hirsch's watchful eye, he placed them on his modeling stand for inspection..

With all his Little Dancers lined up on the stand, Mr. Hirsch looked like a choreographer joyfully directing the dance.

Although not one to allow his picture to be taken often, on this occasion, the artist allowed me to photograph this wonderful moment of the sculptor enjoying his creation.

Although I have several of Mr. Hirsch's works, none means more to me than the terra cotta bas relief portrait he gave my husband and me as a wedding present in 1982.

Like others who had the privilege of having Willard Hirsch create their portrait, I consider this artwork a family treasure.

Bas relief portrait of Katherine Muschick Schneider by Willard N. Hirsch circa 1982

Terra cotta on cradled wooden panel
     Medallion: 11.25" diameter
     Backed size: 17" h x 16" w

Thinking in Charcoal -The Use of Preliminary Drawings in Painting

The charcoal drawings I'm posting today are used as first steps in the painting process to develop the design and composition of a new painting.

They help decide what to put into a painting and even more importantly, what to leave out.

They also help to see how well shapes fit together in the composition and can be used to decide where values are most effective to create a successful final painting.

I don't always use preliminary drawings, but find them useful for certain paintings.They're interesting as a way of seeing the early stages of a composition. They're like windows into the artists mind during the creative process of developing a final painting.

Charcoal drawing for the oil painting "Summer Shower - Battery Park" (see below).

See post on July 25 for full details of this oil painting.

Charcoal study for a painting in progress titled "Shelter from the Shower" A painting of Live Oaks and the Band Shell at While Point Gardens.