In Sculpting a Life, the first book-length biography of sculptor Chana Orloff (1888-1968), author Paula Birnbaum tells the story of a fiercely determined and ambitious woman who fled antisemitism in Ukraine, emigrated to Palestine with her family, then travelled to Paris to work in haute couture before becoming an internationally recognized artist. Against the backdrop of revolution, world wars, a global pandemic and forced migrations, her sculptures embody themes of gender, displacement, exile, and belonging. A major figure in the School of Paris, Orloff contributed to the canon of modern art alongside Picasso, Modigliani and Chagall.
Stories from her unpublished memoir enrich this life story of courage, perseverance, and extraordinary artistic accomplishments that take us through the aftermath of the Holocaust when Orloff lived between Paris and Tel Aviv. This biography brings new perspectives and understandings to Orloff’s multiple identities as a cosmopolitan émigré, woman, and Jew, and is a much-needed intervention into the narrative of modern art.