The Laborer (1958)

by Ahron Ben-Schmuel (1903 - 1984)

Photo Caption: Photo Alec Rogers © 2014 for the Association for Public Art
North Terrace of Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial (north of Boathouse Row on Kelly Drive)
1958

  • Title

    The Laborer

  • Artist

    Ahron Ben-Schmuel (1903 - 1984)

  • Year

    1958

  • Medium

    Granite, on granite base

  • Dimensions

    Height 8’6″ (base 3’10”)

Commissioned by the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art), bequest of Ellen Phillips Samuel

Owned by the City of Philadelphia


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At A Glance

The sculptures of the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial were to be emblematic of the history of America, symbolizing the people and ambitions that have shaped the country. As America’s mental and spiritual energies would have had little impact without physical energy as well, artist Ahron Ben-Shmuel was commissioned by the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art) to commemorate the working men and women who helped to build the nation. Born in North Africa, Ben-Shmuel grew up in New York, where he trained as a stone-cutter. Another of his granite carvings in Philadelphia is Boxers.

A view of the North Terrace of the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial on Kelly Drive
The North Terrace of the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial. Photo Caitlin Martin © 2010 for the Association for Public Art.

The North Terrace of the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial

The development of the North Terrace inaugurated the final stage of the Samual Memorial. Here the intention was to express not historical periods or movements but rather the “inner energies” that shaped the nation. Two major bronze groups were to represent “social consciousness” and “constructive enterprise,” and the commissions were offered to Jacob Epstein and Jacque Lipchitz. As Epstein and Lipchitz progressed, it became apparent that their two massive monuments would not fit comfortably in the same terrace. Thus, Epstein’s Social Consciousness was installed at the west entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Lipchitz’s The Spirit of Enterprise served as the centerpiece of the North Terrace until, in 1986, it was moved to the Central Terrace.

Sculptures in the North Terrace:

Adapted from Public Art in Philadelphia by Penny Balkin Bach (Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1992).

 

RESOURCES:

Museum Without Walls logo: a program of the Association for Public Art

 

Voices heard in the program:

Penny Balkin Bach is Executive Director of the Association for Public Art (formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association) and the author of many books and articles about Philadelphia’s public art.

Kathleen A. Foster is Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Senior Curator of American Art and Director of the Center for American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Michael Taylor was Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the author of Jacques Lipchitz and Philadelphia.

Segment Producer: Amanda Aronczyk and Ave Carrillo

A program of the Association for Public Art (formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association), Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO is an innovative and accessible outdoor sculpture audio program for Philadelphia’s preeminent collection of public art.

User calls Museum Without Walls Audio for Robert Indiana's LOVE sculpture
Photo Albert Yee © 2010 for the Association for Public Art

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