Paul Herzel, German/American (1876 - 1956)
Paul Herzel was born in Silesia, Germany in 1876. He died in May of 1956 at the City Hospital in New York City at the age of 79. When he was seven years old his family emigrated to the United States locating at St. Louis, Missouri. As a young boy, he began drawing, painting scenery along the Mississippi River, and modeling clay which he found along the river bank. His father died when Paul was 14 or 15, and he went to work as a machinist with the American Brake Company in St. Louis.
While working there, he also began to study painting at the St. Louis Art School at about age 22. During this time, he helped to establish the Brush and Pencil Club of St. Louis. Herzel became interested in the animals at the Forest Park Zoo in St. Louis and began making sketches, paintings, and models. When about 28 years of age, he went to Europe visiting art museums and copied Velasquez' paintings in Madrid. Returning to the United States, he located in New York and began the study of sculpture at the Beaux Arts Institute of Design.
There, he frequented the Central Park Zoo and continued the study of animal form and applied it to his work. Two of his paintings "Blesbok" and "White- tailed Gnu" were acquired by the New York Zoological Society. In addition to his art work, Herzel became involved in the Socialist Labor Party and served as their treasurer for twenty years.
He also was a member of their national executive committee and once was
a candidate for the New York State Supreme Court. Many of Herzel's
sculptural designs were sold to companies such as the Pompeian Bronze
Company, which reproduced his works as bookends, ashtrays, lamp bases,
and statuettes. He is primarily known for his sculpture, although he
completed hundreds of paintings and sketches throughout his career.
Herzel won the Barnett Prize of the National Academy of Design in 1915 for "The Struggle" a sculpture of a boa constrictor strangling a tiger. The same work also won a prize given by Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney. Other popular works include "The Pirate", "Bucking Horse", "Lion and Zebra", "The Yank", and "The Riveter" which was acquired by the Moscow Museum of Modern Western Arts.
Apparently for some time, Herzel was employed by the New York Zoo
Society painting background scenery for the animal's cages. The library of that society contains some of his paintings.
Following his death in 1956, some of his paintings were kept in a closet at the home of his surviving brother, Fred Herzel of St. Louis, Missouri. Fred Herzel would give away his brother's paintings on special family occasions.
- by Marc Houseman, Museum Director, Washington Missouri Historical Society, Washington, Franklin County, Missouri.