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Philip Pavel (1899 – 1971)

Music (attributed), brass and wire construction, c. 1936, 28 x 14 x 5 inches; perhaps exhibited at Hollywood Riviera Gallery, 1936 (third prize); provenance includes Estate of Jon Spencer Helfen (Los Angeles, CA)


About the Sculpture

In 1935, Philip Paval bought a box of metal in a “blind auction.” Paval, a painter, sculptor, and jeweler, had hoped the box contained silver. To his dismay, it was brass. Seeing an opportunity, Paval started to make sculptures from the brass sheets. His subjects included Cinema, Hollywood, Radio, Dance, Aviation and Music. The works were well-received with the Hollywood crowd and critically acclaimed. Actor and comedian, Ben Bard, purchased four of them for his theater, and novelist and screenwriter, Vicki Baum ordered four more for her drawing room. Movie director King Vidor also purchased them. Los Angeles Times art critic, Arthur Millier, described Paval’s “contraptions” as “ingenious, decorative, different.” Paval exhibited these works for several years in the late 1930s, including at the American Artists’ Congress Gallery in Los Angeles in an exhibition called Formalism and Abstraction in 1938 and at a solo show at Stendahl Galleries in 1939. The appeal of these works must have been irresistible, as a 1936 Los Angeles Times article noted, “Two feet of brass art has been stolen from the Hollywood Riviera Galleries. The work is an abstraction. It portrays the spirit of music and rested on the grand piano in the main hall. The work of Philip Paval, it won third prize in the current gallery exhibition at the gallery.” One can only wonder whether this is the “contraption” which was pilfered from the gallery nearly one hundred years ago. Given the description of the work, its subject matter and size, it seems likely.

About the Artist

Philip Paval was a sculptor, painter, and jeweler. Born in Denmark, Paval was apprenticed to a silversmith and studied art in Denmark. He immigrated to the US in 1919 and first worked as a merchant seaman in New York. The following year, Paval settled in Los Angeles where he later opened his own jewelry shop featuring works he designed and produced. Paval became a favorite in the entertainment world, making a good living selling silver, gold, and brass sculptures, as well as painting portraits for Hollywood celebrities. He exhibited widely, winning prizes at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Hollywood Riviera Gallery, the Ebell Club, and the California Art Club, where he served as president in the 1950s. In 1968, he wrote an autobiography recounting his experiences, including in Hollywood’s golden age. He is listed in Who was Who in American Art and other standard references.


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