“He worked from the outside; the hammer marks, the evidence of making, are an integral part of the pieces.... It’s unusual, not the common way of working with metal sculpture.”

— Malcolm Cochran, Artist & Ohio State University Professor

John Cavanaugh — Gallery

The World of Henry Orient

A scene from the film ‘The World of Henry Orient’, depicting actor Peter Sellers pushing Reclining Nude - Circa 1962, toward a door to block its entry. Both the reclining and standing female sculptures of Cavanaugh's are exquisite in their carefully modeled form and subtle allure.

Collection: Private Collection, Texas.
Ref. 1963 Sculpture Center Exhibit. Cat. #18
Studio Still - Photographer Unknown

1939 - Self Portrait - Oil
Painted by John Cavanaugh at 18 years old.
Painted at the age of 18, Cavanaugh shows his early skills in handling the two-dimensional medium. Yet, interestingly, Mrs. James, Cavanaugh's early and influential instructor, proudly noted he “found he could not paint” when he left Urbana, and Cavanaugh himself stated that when Mrs. James “wasn't around to direct me exactly, I did not know how to proceed.” Still John Cavanaugh won one of his first awards, the Louise Shepard Hengst Memorial Prize in the Columbus Art League's annual exhibition in 1944, for a painting called ‘Trees’.

Collection: John Cavanaugh Foundation, Washington DC
Period: Ohio

1944 - 'Heda' - Ceramic - 12" approx.
This piece from the 1955 Antioch Exhibit demonstrates the hollow form Cavanaugh used in his Ohio period, strengthening his ability to develop the subtle surfaces of his female sculptures.

Collection: Private Collection, Columbus, Ohio
Ref. 1955 Antioch Cat. #1
Photo by Hugh L. Graves
Period: Ohio

1951 - 'Goose' - Ceramic - 04 matte manganese glaze - 19"
This sculpture was exhibited in the National Sculpture Society Traveling Exhibits program and awarded the Purchase Prize.

Collection: Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse University
Ref. Nat. Sculpture Soc. Purchase Prize, 16th Ceramic National Traveling Exhibition
Photographer Unknown
Period: Ohio

1952 - 'Brown Bear' - Ceramic, high fired with brown salt glaze
This highly glazed bear was shown in Cavanaugh's One Man Show at Cranbrook Academy in anticipation of his accepting a scholarship Cranbrook had offered him. Goose additionally won the Robert W. Schiff Sculpture Prize at the 1955 Columbus Art League Show.

Collection: Whereabouts Unknown
Photographer Unknown
Period: Ohio

1953 - 'Ostrich' - Stoneware, high fired mixed glazes, buff matte and bubble barillium glaze - 1/8 life size.
Animals represented an important subject for Cavanaugh — right through his professional career as a sculptor. John Flannagan (1895-1942) another American sculptor known for his unpretentious humor and direct portrayal of animals is also appreciated by viewers attuned to na´ve or primitive sensibilities. Both artists simplified nature and gently distorted figures and animals in order to animate their own inner world.

Collection: Whereabouts Unknown
Photo by Hugh L. Graves
Period: Ohio

1954 - 'Goat Head' - Hammered Steel
This is one of Cavanaugh's first known works in hammered metal. Made while he was employed at North American Aviation. NAA's newsletter, Take Off proudly noted "Experimental worker here at the plant, John Cavanaugh, recognized local sculptor, is to be the guest artist tonight in the Columbus Gallery of Art's 'Meet the Artist' series... [his award winning Goat Head] was formed "from a piece he obtained, incidentally, from the NAA Salvage Sales Dept." This piece was awarded the Frederick M. Schumaker Prize at the Columbus Art League Exhibit in 1954, and appears on the catalog cover.

Collection: Whereabouts Unknown
Photographer Unknown
Period: Ohio

1954 - 'Portrait of Ben' - Ceramic - 11"
First Prize, 1955 Antioch Exhibit
Cavanaugh is wearing a button for the Aviation organization in this picture.

Collection: Whereabouts Unknown
Photo by Hugh L. Graves
Period: Ohio

Installation photo showing Cavanaugh at his one-man exhibition at the Cranbrook Art School in 1955. During this time, in his Ohio period, Cavanaugh was experimenting with various forms and styles of contemporary influence, in contrast with his classical training. Throughout his career Cavanaugh never allowed popular influence to completely guide him. His experimentations remained more a form of personal education than popular sway.

Piece names: Unknown
Photographer Unknown

1955 - 'Bug Lady' - Ceramic - 9" approx.
An early ceramic figure by Cavanaugh, demonstrating the 'hollow' nature of his work. When Cavanaugh showed this piece to his early teacher and mentor Alice Seawall James, tears started rolling down her cheeks and she said, 'John, I thought I taught you how to love the human,' in the classic sense.

Collection: Whereabouts Unknown
Photographer Unknown
Period: Ohio

1955 - 'Boy in Sling Chair' - Terracotta - waxed with powdered Mica - 7.5" x 20.75" x 15.5"
This is one of Cavanaugh's delightful large-headed children.

Collection: Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio. Howland Fund Purchase.
Photo by Hugh L. Graves
Period: Ohio

1957 - 'Girl on Moon' - Terracotta - 9" x 7.5" x 6"
Again a delightful example of the 'large-headed' figures Cavanaugh sculpted throughout his career. Its 'off-kilter' look and expression offer a wonderful insight. This piece was cast in 1984 as 'The Crescent'.

Collection: Private Collection, Maryland.
Photo by John Elsbree, San Antonio, TX.
Period: New York

1959 - 'Mother & Daughter' - Terracotta - 24" x 24" x 18"
Cavanaugh is quoted as saying, "I need a subject that represents love."

Collection: Patron and Whereabouts Unknown
Sculpture Center record sheet: 'Sale # 2006.'
Photo by Jeremiah Russell, NYC, NY
Period: New York

1959 - 'Standing Female' - Terracotta - 13.75" x 3.25" x 7.5"
Pictured here is the bronze edition from the original 1959 terracotta. One of his first, and most successful, standing females.

Collections: Private Collection, Heron, Montana, - Original Terracotta
Swann's Way, Washington DC, A/O bronze
Private Collection, Ohio, 1/24 bronze
Private Collection, New York, NY, 2/24 bronze
Private Collection, PA, 3/24 bronze
Photo by John Elsbree, San Antonio, TX.
Period: New York

1960 - 'Belgian Horse' - Terracotta - 6" x 7.5" x 2.5"
Pictured here is the bronze edition from the original terracotta.
In a classic tradition, Cavanaugh often used animals as a source of inspiration. This piece has recently been returned to the John Cavanaugh Foundation from Betty McColloch, who inherited it from her mother, Kay Laur. Kay was a dear friend of Cavanaugh and is memorialized by him in the sculpture 'Demeter', at the United States National Arboretum, Washington DC.

Collection: John Cavanaugh Foundation.
Photo by John Elsbree, San Antonio, TX.
Period: New York

1960 - Lausbub - Bronze edition from terracotta original - Wood stand - 8.5" x 4.25" x 5.5" - Edition 12
Lausbub - meaning brat or scalawag. Cavanaugh's own mischievousness can often be seen in his subjects. A known practical joker, Cavanaugh himself could be a lausbub. Fred Dobbs, friend and collector noted that Cavanaugh was "full of mischief."

Collections: Swann's Way Gallery, Washington DC - A/O
Peter Fisher, St. Louis, MO. - 2/12
William Gratz, Mamaroneck, NY - 3/12

1961 - Thin Woman - direct wax casting - 7" x 1.5" x 1.75"
This is an experimental piece Cavanaugh produced in a 'contemporary' variation form, somewhat reminiscent of Giacometti.

Collection: Private Collection, Washington DC, bequest of the John Cavanaugh Estate.
Photo by John Elsbree, San Antonio, TX.
Period: New York

1961 - Boy with Rock - Terracotta - 10.5" x 8.5 ' x 8.5"
Pictured is the bronze edition in 1973 from the terracotta original. Up until this time Cavanaugh felt he had been unable to achieve with his male figures what he had been able to achieve with the female form. The awkward turn of the body shows a portrait of unresolved youth, a record of inner conflict.

Collections: Private Collection, Maryland - A/O - original 1973
Swann's Way, Washington DC - 1/24 & 5/24
Private Collection, Virginia - 2/24
Private Collection, Washington DC - 3/24
Economist, Inc., Washington DC - 4/24
Private Collection, Alabama - 6/24
Photo by John Elsbree, San Antonio, TX.
Period: New York

1962 - Torso - lead - 30" approx.
Torso (pictured at right) is one of John's earliest pieces in lead. His ability to complete figures fully hammered in the round was and remains unmatched. The brilliant and well collected sculptor Dorothea Greenbaum (pictured at left is Greenbaum's 1964 Lead, 'Broken Wing Torso') referred to Cavanaugh as a 'tour de force' in the medium. Like many other sculptors she worked and produced with the lead medium, never completing a piece in the round.

Cavanaugh's Torso - Whereabouts Unknown
Photographer Philip Froeder
Greenbaums Broken Wing Torso - Collection & Photographer Unknown

Installation view of Cavanaugh's first, 1964, Washington DC solo exhibition. Cavanaugh utilized his living and studio spaces as exhibition areas for yearly studio shows. Some of the pieces shown in this picture are (l. to r.) Sling Chair (circa 1955), Loreli (circa 1961), Ram (circa 1963), Bird (circa 1962), Young Lovers (circa 1962), Harem Figure (circa 1963), Torso of Woman (circa 1962), Boar (circa 1962). Photographer Unknown.

Cavanaugh was a brilliant promoter of his work. When he arrived in New York in the late 50's the scene was dominated by the likes of Clement Greenberg, and other critics who maintained a narrow criteria for the artists they supported and promoted. Many artists who continued to develop ideas around figurative or neo-figurative work were essentially "iced-out" of the politics of review. Numerous artists, one being Diebenkorn, turned over night from figurative to more abstract painting for example, in order to fit into the slim margin of artists being noted by the days critics. John Cavanaugh, being the incredibly resourceful energetic artist he was, never allowed himself to be held hostage by the politics of the day in the art world, hence he produced and promoted his own shows in his own spaces, developing a strong following of collectors and giving himself the security to pursue his own pace - albeit an extremely fast and prolific pace - as an artist.

1962 - Sisters - Lead - 26.5" x 13" x 6"
Exhibited in the 1963 Sculpture Center exhibition, Sisters is one of 12 pieces exhibited in Cavanaugh's first exhibition of all lead sculpture. These pieces took approximately a year or slightly longer to execute. Exclaiming that "sheet lead had discovered the sculptor John Cavanaugh in 1962" the medium totally took him over during the central years of his creative life.

Collection: Private Collection, New York
Photo by Philip Froeder
Period: New York

John Cavanaugh Biography/Catalogue RaisonnÚCavanaugh was so prolific, we are still in the process of completing the gallery. Please check again soon. You may also purchase a copy of IN SEARCH OF MOTION, John Cavanaugh’s Biography/Catalogue RaisonnÚ, available for purchase from the John Cavanaugh Foundation for $26.00 (including shipping and handling).