Albert Wein was the only son of accomplished female artist Elsa Wein. This early influence had a profound effect on the creative course that Wein would soon follow. Albert remembered making his first drawings at age two. At the age of nine, Elsa enrolled the two of them in classes at the Maryland Institute, a school that adhered to a curriculum of academic based Classicism. These early influences in the classical tradition formed an impression that would last him the rest of his artistic career. In fact, Wein was once quoted as saying that the main thrust of his work was “to modernize and stylize the classical tradition”.
The 1929 Stock Market crash put an end to his studies at the institute and caused the family to return to New York. While attending high school in the Bronx Wein registered at the National Academy of Design taking up study under the highly respected painter Ivan Olinsky.
In 1932, Wein enrolled in classes at the Beaux-Arts Institute in New York where he expanded upon his academic education in sculpture while studying under some of the most prominent practitioners in their field. His talents were evident when he won an honorable mention for his sculpture Family Group in 1933 and second place for his Jesus Is Entombed in the school’s Paris Prize competition.
Wein’s inclination toward modernization and stylistic composition in his work was made manifest when he decided to enroll in a painting class given by Hans Hofmann, a forefront leader of modernism. It was around this time that Wein sculpted Adam, an early powerful modernist work that revealed what would become his signature stylization of classical tradition.
In 1934 he took a pay-cut to join the W.P.A. during which time he was able to produce many fine works for both commission and competition.
In 1947 he won the Prix de Rome scholarship to study in the American Academy in Rome, where he was to stay for two years. During that period he traveled through Europe, exposing himself to Greek and Roman sculptural precedents.
He returned to the United States and in 1950 joined the National Sculpture Society. Wein was adept at creating monumental, architectural, garden, memorial sculpture. He was also accomplished at bas-relief and produced work for the Steuben Glass Company as well as being a member of the Society of Medallists.
In 1955 Wein moved to California where, besides creating sculpture for numerous synagogues and for private collections, he drew upon his experience in New York Theatre and designed sets for television studios including working as art director for the Ernie Kovacs Show. He also worked on over 300 commercials, including ads for Dutch Masters Cigars, Folgers Coffee, and the Ford Motor Company. Wein experimented with a vast range of media, materials and explored figurative abstraction in both his sculpture and painting, from cubist to free-form while on the west coast. He had a number of one-man exhibitions in California and had numerous radio and television interviews. During this period he also produced a number of fine erotic sculptures. Some of these were used by a psychiatrist to help his patients.
Mr. Wein’s ten-foot limestone statue of Phryne Before the Judges was commissioned by Anna Hyatt Huntington and is located in Brookgreen Gardens.
He was also artist-in-residence at Brandeis Camp and a visiting professor of sculpture at the University of Wyoming.
In 1975, he was commissioned to create North America’s largest granite relief; A 27 ft x 27 ft. granite relief on Libby Dam which is located in Montana. His design was picked unanimously by the judges for its wonderfully designed and clear image which could still be seen from afar. Albert and his wife Deyna lived in Vermont during the carving of the 75 ton monument which was dedicated by President Gerald Ford. The work took several years to complete.
In 1975 he moved back to New York and settled in Westchester County. He became a fellow of the National Sculpture Society and was elected to Academician of the National Academy of Design. His attention returned to a more representation of the figure and as he said “modernizing the classical tradition” which continued until his death.
In the 1980s he was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation grant for study in Bellagio, Italy. During his illustrious career he won every award that a sculptor could win. Few artists have experimented and been able to marry both the Classicism and Modernism so wonderfully.
Wein’s modernistic approach is also manifest in his paintings and related works. He approached painting much the same way he did sculpture, from a sound academic based foundation that gave him the legitimacy and freedom to express his modernistic views. His paintings have been widely exhibited and have gained him much notoriety. Very few artists of the twentieth century have so successfully achieved a balance between the extremes of Classicism and Modernism, as did Albert Wein. His sound foundation of academic excellence provided the basis for the stylized, modernistic approach that set him apart from his contemporaries. Wein Felt that “every good work of art is a good abstract composition” or could at least be represented by one. That the subject, devoid of details and pared down to only what is necessary to convey the “essence” of the composition is what really mattered in an artistic work.
He left behind a legacy of spectacular works that have universal appeal because of his unique ability to forge a union between centuries of artistic style. Gordon Friedlander – friend and former 21st president of the National sculpture society stated eloquently: “Albert’s work will live on and will endure. These sculptures have already passed the test of time – the true measure of the worth of all creative people.”