|Death Date: May 5, 1991
|Born March 17, 1904 in Wolow, a small village in the Carpathian Mountains, now a part of Poland. Chaim Gross’s experience and influence with sculpture and art came from his father’s lumber mill and the observation of peasants carving figures and toys out of wood.
With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Russian troops occupied Koloyyja, and the young boy witnessed a brutal attack on his parents by Cossacks. Galicia had become a shifting battleground for Austrian and Russian troops and later Gross was pressed into service as a stretcher-bearer and grave-digger with the Austrian military. In 1916, after several frustrated attempts, he escaped and the 12-year-old boy made his way to Stryj, through Silesia and from Vienna to Budapest. There he supported himself for two years at a succession of menial jobs before apprenticing himself to a jeweler. During these years he developed the habit of sketching constantly in his spare time. In the spring of 1921 he came to the United States and took a job selling fruit and vegetables during the day and at night he attended classes at the Educational Alliance Art School in Manhattan. Gross would do about anything to earn a living and create his art. He delivered newspapers, painted walls, cleaned floors and washed dishes attending art school at night. Beginning in 1927 he got a dollar a day for teaching sculpture at the Educational Alliance. Then in 1932 Gross had his first one-man show in a Greenwich Village gallery.
In time Gross became known for his sculpture – his subjects were often acrobats, children, women, and dancers and his figures gave them unearthly forms. Often when he sculpted he would start with drawings and claims he was one of the few sculptors who knew how to draw and paint.
In an interview he said: “People in the early days didn’t want to buy sculpture. They’d buy 50 paintings before they bought one sculpture. Till 1942 I could count on my fingers every piece that I sold."