Eugenie Gershoy (January 1, 1901 – May 8, 1986) was an American sculptor and watercolorist. Eugenie Gershoy was born in Krivoy Rog, Russia (Krivoi Rog, Ukraine) and emigrated to New York City in the United States as a child in 1903. Considered somewhat of a child prodigy, Gershoy was copying Old Master drawings at the age of 5. Her interest and talent in art was encouraged from a very young age. Aided by scholarships, she studied at the Art Students League under Alexander Stirling Calder, Leo Lentelli, Kenneth Hayes Miller, and Boardman Robinson. Around this time, she created a group of portrait figurines of her fellow artists, including Arnold Blanch, Lucile Blanch, Raphael Soyer, William Zorach, Concetta Scaravaglione, and Emil Ganso, which were exhibited as a group at the Whitney Museum of American Art. At age 17, she was awarded the Saint-Gaudens Medal for fine draughtsmanship. Early in her career she became an active member of the Woodstock art colony. In Woodstock she experimented by sculpting in the profusion of indigenous materials that she found. Working with fieldstone, oak and chestnut, Gershoy created works based on classic formulae. As she became more interested in the dynamism of everyday life, she found that these materials and her idiom were too restrictive. By the time Gershoy came to Woodstock in 1921 her own individual artistic style was already evident in her sculptures. Eugenie Gershoy worked in stone, bronze, terracotta, plaster and papier-mache. Gershoy’s sculptures were mainly figurative in nature and many of her artist peers such as Carl Walters, Raphael and Moses Soyer, William Zorach and Lucille Blanch, became her subjects. Eugenie Gershoy’s works on paper should not be overlooked. She was the winner of the Gaudens Medal for Fine Draughtsmanship at the tender age of 17. Gershoy married Jewish Romanian-born artist Harry Gottlieb. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the pair kept a studio in Woodstock, New York. There, Gershoy was influenced by sculptor John Flanagan, who lived and worked nearby.
From 1936 to 1939, Gershoy worked for the WPA Federal Art Project. She collaborated with Max Spivak on murals for the children's recreation room of the Queens Borough Public Library in Astoria, New York. She developed a mixture of wheat paste, plaster, and egg tempera, which she used in polychrome papier-mâché sculptures; she was the only New York sculptor to work in polychrome at this time. She also designed cement and mosaic sculptures of animals and figures to be placed in New York City playgrounds. Alongside others employed by the FAP, she participated in a sit-down strike in Washington, DC, to advocate for better pay and improved working conditions for the projects' artists.
Gershoy's first solo exhibition was held at the Robinson Gallery in New York in 1940. She moved to San Francisco in 1942, and began teaching ceramics at the California School of Fine Arts in 1946. In 1950, she studied at the artists' colony at Yaddo.
Gershoy traveled extensively throughout her life. She visited England and France in the early 1930s, and worked in Paris in 1951. She traveled to Mexico and Guatemala in the late 1940s, and also toured Africa, India, and the Orient in 1955.
In 1977, Gershoy dedicated a sculpture to Audrey McMahon, who was actively involved in the creation of the Federal Art Project and served as its regional director in New York, in recognition of the work McMahon provided struggling artists in the 1930s.
Gershoy's work is in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Her papers are held at Syracuse University Grant Arnold introduced her to lithography in 1930 and Gershoy depicted many scenes of Woodstock artists and their daily activities through this medium. From 1942 to 1966 Gershoy lived and painted in San Francisco where she taught at the San Francisco Art Institute. She traveled extensively, filling sketchbooks with scenes of Mexico, France, Spain, Africa and India. During her later years Eugenie Gershoy returned to New York City and concentrated on numerous well received exhibitions. Her last exhibition in at Sid Deutsch Gallery included many of the sculptures that were later exhibited in the Fletcher Gallery.
John Russell, former chief critic of fine arts for the New York Times, writes about the 1986 Sid Deutsch exhibition:
“As Eugenie Gershoy won the Saint-Gaudens Medal for fine draftsmanship as long ago as 1914 and since 1967 has had 15 papier-mache portrait figures suspended from the ceiling of the lobby of the Hotel Chelsea, she must be ranked as a veteran of the New York scene. Her present exhibition includes not only the high-spirited papier-mache sculptures for which she is best known but a group of small portraits of artists, mostly dating from the 30’s, that is strongly evocative.”
Eugenie Gershoy is an artist to take note of for several reasons. She was a woman who received great awards and recognition during a time when most female artists were struggling to hold their own against their male counterparts. As a young girl she won a scholarship to the Arts Student League where she met Hannah Small, who inspired her to start sculpting and became her lifelong friend. These two women made quite a name for themselves, both while they were alive and thereafter. Gershoy was one of the first residents of the Maverick Art Colony in Woodstock, NY. This gave her access to an extensive network of artists that were masters of their craft, such as Arnold and Lucile Blanch, Helen and Carl Walters and Harry Gottlieb, who became her husband. Gershoy documented life at the Maverick and her plaster bust of Hervey White, the co-founder of the original Woodstock artists’ colony and the sole founder of the Maverick, sits in the permanent collection of the Woodstock Artist Association.
Eugenie Gershoy has been represented in almost every major collection including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Museum of American Art, the Syracuse Museum of American Art, the Delgado Museum of Art, Skidmore College of Fine Art.
She has had numerous exhibitions including prominent galleries in New York, San Francisco, New Orleans and her most famous show after her death, “Fantasy and Imagination in Sculpture” at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC.
Gershoy participated in the WPA Federal Art Project, taught at numerous schools and San Francisco Art Institute, was the recipient of the Art Grant to Europe and was an artist resident of the Hotel Chelsea.