American, born in Turkey 1904-1993
Born Haig Heukelekian to Armenian parents in Istanbul, Turkey, Raoul Hague studied sculpture at New York’s Beaux-Arts Institute in the late 1920s before continuing his art education under William Zorach at the Art Students League. Though Zorach was an early conduit for European modernist styles, his teaching focused on traditional wood and stone carving methods, a reassertion of hand crafting and natural materials during an age of mechanization. Throughout the 1930s, Hague worked with marble and wood in a semi-abstract figurative style similar to that of Abstract Expressionist painters like his colleagues Arshile Gorky and Willem de Kooning. All three of these artists worked in the Federal Arts Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depression-era program that employed artists to create murals and monuments for federal buildings. The community of artists in New York City during this period was strengthened by their shared experience in the WPA.
When he received a draft notice for the U.S. Army in 1941, Hague sought a place to store his sculptures and rented a building from his friend Hervey White at the Maverick Artist Colony in Woodstock, New York. After his discharge from service in 1943, he moved permanently to a cabin there. Over the next decade, though his work became increasingly abstract, his sculptures continued to recall the natural shape of the trees he carved—large trunks of locally sourced walnut, poplar, sycamore, and locus, with titles that reflect this practice: Vermont Marble (1946) and Katterskill Butternutt (1953–55).
Big Indian Mountain is named after a peak in the Catskills close to Hague’s Woodstock studio. Though he worked in an abstract manner that can be seen as an analogue to the gestural style of Abstract Expressionist painting, he created forms that recall natural processes. The smooth surfaces and sensuous curves of the sculpture reflect the artist’s vision of nature’s sensuousness. “I’m affected by the things nature has done, to the rocks, to the trees,” Hague explained. “They create a tremendous visual drama. . . . Those sensuous qualities are from there, from the mountains.”
Location: ATT West Entrance