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ABOUT PAL-BELL'S FOUNDER: MAURICE ASCALON

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  • Eric Ascalon
    SCULPTOR MAURICE ASCALON Maurice Ascalon was born Moshe Klein in eastern Hungary in 1913. From an early age, he was determined to pursue his artistic
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 9, 2004
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      SCULPTOR MAURICE ASCALON

      Maurice Ascalon was born Moshe Klein in eastern Hungary in 1913. From
      an early age, he was determined to pursue his artistic yearnings,
      however in order to do so, he was forced to abandon his ultra-
      religious Chasidic Jewish routes – for artistic expression was
      frowned upon in the eastern Hungarian "Shtetl" in which he was
      raised. When he was 15 years old Ascalon left his family and boyhood
      home to study art at the Academy des Beaux Arts in Brussels. He took
      with him, though, an in-depth understanding for the rituals and
      traditions of the Jewish ceremonies, which knowledge he would later
      apply to his artistic endeavors.

      In 1934, after concluding his formal artistic training in Brussels
      and later Milan, Ascalon immigrated to Israel (then Palestine). There
      he met his wife-to-be, Ziporah Kartujinsky, a Polish-born Jew,
      granddaughter to the distinguished cartographer and scientist of the
      same surname. (Ziporah, who died in 1982, became a sculptor in her
      own right late in her life, creating magnificent bas reliefs
      depicting the Shtetl life of her childhood).

      In 1939, Maurice Ascalon designed and created the enormous 14 foot
      tall hammered copper relief sculpture of three figures, "The Toiler
      of the Soil, the Laborer and the Scholar", which adorned the façade
      of the Jewish Palestine Pavilion of the 1939 New York World's Fair.
      Ascalon was commissioned to create this work by the noted Israeli
      architect, Arie El-Hanani, who designed the historically significant
      Pavilion which introduced the world to the concept of a modern Jewish
      state.

      In the mid-1930's, Maurice (then with the last name "Klein") founded,
      with his brother-in-law, the company Klein-Komm, which created a
      variety of decorative craft items in wood and metal. Most of the
      Klein-Komm items incorporated labor intensive hand-hammered
      metalwork, and were thus produced in relatively small numbers.

      In the late 1930s, Ascalon founded Pal Bell Co. Ltd., a decorative
      arts manufacturing company which produced trademark bronze and brass
      menorahs and other liturgical and secular decorative arts items that
      were exported in large numbers worldwide. Ascalon's Pal Bell designs,
      some art


      deco, others more traditional, introduced the use of "green patina"
      (verdigris) to Israeli metalwork, which is now a hallmark of Israel's
      crafts industry. During Israel's War for Independence in 1948,
      Ascalon designed munitions for the Israeli Army and retrofitted the
      Pal Bell factory to produce munitions for the war effort. In the 1956
      Ascalon immigrated to the United States. It was shortly before he
      relocated to the U.S. that he parted with his former surname "Klein",
      and adopted the name "Ascalon", after the ancient biblical city.

      During the 1950s and 1960s, Ascalon resided in New York and Los
      Angeles. He gained a reputation as a master silversmith, creating the
      ceremonial objects of Judaica he first learned of in his youth. For a
      time, he served as a professor of sculpture on the fine arts faculty
      of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles.

      In the late 1970s, Ascalon co-founded Ascalon Studios. Ascalon
      Studios, located in the Philadelphia suburbs of New Jersey, became
      (and still is today, under the direction of Maurice's son, David
      Ascalon) a multifaceted art studio dedicated to the creation of
      monumental sculpture and art for the adornment of worship and public
      spaces. In February of 2003, Maurice Ascalon celebrated his 90th
      birthday as a resident of Cuernavaca, Mexico, where he resided for
      the past several years with his other son Adir Ascalon, an abstract
      painter and sculptor known for his collaborations with the Mexican
      artist Siqueiros. In May of 2003 Adir died suddenly after suffering a
      massive stroke. Two months later, in August of 2003, Maurice passed
      away, after a long, fruitful life, from complications related to
      Parkinson's Disease, an illness he endured during most of the final
      decade of his life. Ascalon was also survived by a daughter, Sarah
      Ascalon Benjamin, a painter who resides in New York.

      Maurice Ascalon's commissions include permanent installations at
      synagogues and public spaces throughout the United States and Mexico.
      His works have been exhibited at and are among the collections of
      institutions including the Jewish Museum in New York, the Museum of
      American Jewish History in Philadelphia, the Spertus Museum in
      Chicago, and the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, where Ascalon
      taught.
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