(1924 – 2000), USA

George Segal Biography

An advocate for realism amid the prevalence of abstract expressionism, George Segal is best known for his life-size, plaster-cast models that recreate mundane scenes from American life.

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Early Life

George Segal was born into a Jewish family in New York. Segal's parents were Polish immigrants who ran a butcher shop in the Bronx. Segal developed a passion for art at an early age under the encouragement of his art teacher.

When his parents moved to a chicken farm in New Jersey, Segal stayed behind in Brooklyn. Segal attended a number of art schools before graduating from New York University in 1949 with a teaching degree. He would later return to Rutgers University to complete an MFA in 1963.

Performance Art

Segal married Helen Steinberg in 1946 and purchased a second chicken farm in South Brunswick, New Jersey. There, he held regular picnics, inviting friends from the New York art scene and lecturers from Rutgers University's art department.

In 1957, Allan Kaprow, known for pioneering the field of performance art, began to refer to the gatherings on Segal's farm as 'happenings'. Events included John Cage's experimental composition classes and the Yam Festival (1962—1963), which set the foundation for the Fluxus movement.

George Segal Artworks

Often unpainted and minimalistic, Segal's ghostly figures evoke the alienation in American society, referencing popular imagery and a culture of consumption through mundane scenes.

Realism and Alienation

Segal started making cast figures in the 1960s, recovering figurative sculpture by using real-life models at a time when others pushed towards abstraction. Segal's preference for sober palettes and traditional mediums distinguished his works from contemporaries like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Early works like Man Sitting at a Table (1961) and The Diner (1964—1966) depict lonely figures cast in plaster and set in environments made from found objects.

Pop Art

Other sculptures draw from American pastimes and popular culture. Cinema (1963) shows a man replacing the title on a cinema marquee, while The Movie Poster (1967) depicts a man gazing upon a photograph of Marilyn Monroe.

Similarly, works like Man on a Bicycle (1964), showing a man cast in plaster riding a bicycle with a blank gaze, directly reference their environment. The work was first exhibited at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, a city known for its cycling commuters.


Segal began colouring his sculptures in the late 1960s, resulting in works like The Costume Party (1965—1972). The sculpture depicts six life-size figures cast in plaster depicting historical and fictional characters, painted in primary colours and inspired by a real costume party he attended.


Segal's figures deviate from traditional casting techniques, opting rather for plaster bandages commonly used to make orthopaedic casts. The model is first wrapped with bandages before the hardened form is removed and replaced with more plaster to form a hollow shell.

The resulting sculpture preserves the rough textures of the bandages and are often left unpainted, generating their ghastly hue. Later sculptures are painted in monochrome palettes or cast in bronze and patinated to resemble the initial plaster.

Outdoor Sculpture

Segal's ease with the human figure resulted in many commissions for outdoor sculptures, as they became more popular across the United States. Gay Liberation Monument (1980), located in Christopher Park in Manhattan, commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Riots by depicting two same-sex couples. It was the first piece of public art dedicated to gay rights.

Similarly, Depression Bread Line (1991) is an outdoor sculptural installation showing a line of people wearing worn-out hats and overcoats, replicating the queues of Depression-era breadlines. The sculpture replicates people from Segal's life, incorporating old friends, artists, and neighbours, as well as Segal himself.


George Segal has been the recipient of many awards, including the Federal Design Achievement Award (2000); the National Medal of Arts (1999); Lifetime Achievement in the Arts (1997); Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture (1992); and the Mayer Sulzberger Award (1986).


Segal passed away in New Jersey in 2000. His work has been shown extensively across the United States, in Europe, and in Asia.

Segal has exhibited in numerous solo exhibitions around the world, including at Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey (2012); Galerie Stefan Roepke, Cologne (2011); Maxwell Davidson Gallery, New York (2010); Monmouth Museum, New Jersey (2010); Galerie Thomas Moderns, Munich (2010); Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach (2009); Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas (2009); Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (2008); FIAC, Paris (2007); Musee des Beaux-Arts, Montreal (1997); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1989); The Jewish Museum, New York (1985); The National Museum of Art, Osaka (1982); Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (1976); Art Basel (1974); Centre National d'Art Contemporain, Paris (1972); and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1968).


The artist's website can be found here.

Elaine YJ Zheng | Ocula | 2021

George Segal
featured artworks

Bus station by George Segal contemporary artwork photography
George Segal Bus station, 1995 Plaster, wood, gelatin silver print
243.8 x 304.8 x 83.8 cm
Templon Contact Gallery
Standing girl looking right by George Segal contemporary artwork sculpture
George Segal Standing girl looking right, 1973 Plaster
107 x 71 x 33 cm
Templon Contact Gallery
Woman Listening to Music II by George Segal contemporary artwork installation
George Segal Woman Listening to Music II, 1972 Plaster, acrylic, record & record player, speakers
33 x 188 x 81.3 cm
Templon Contact Gallery
Seated Woman: Floor Piece by George Segal contemporary artwork sculpture
George Segal Seated Woman: Floor Piece, 1975 Plaster, paint
66 x 58.4 x 73.7 cm
Templon Contact Gallery
Blue Woman on Bed by George Segal contemporary artwork installation
George Segal Blue Woman on Bed, 1996–1999 Plaster, wood, glass, paint, digital clock
243.8 x 243.8 x 205 cm
Templon Contact Gallery
Blimpies by George Segal contemporary artwork installation
George Segal Blimpies, 1999 Plaster, paint, wood, glass
243.8 x 264.8 x 121.9 cm
Templon Contact Gallery
42nd Street Deli by George Segal contemporary artwork installation
George Segal 42nd Street Deli, 1999 Plaster, paint, plastic, wood, Lite-Brite pegs, light bulbs, sockets
243 x 243 x 81 cm
Templon Contact Gallery
The Dancers by George Segal contemporary artwork sculpture
George Segal The Dancers, 1971 Plaster
179 x 274 x 183 cm
Templon Contact Gallery

George Segal
recent exhibition

George Segal
represented by

Templon contemporary art gallery in 30 rue Beaubourg, Paris, France
Templon Brussels, New York, Paris
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