Dimitri Hadzi

Dimitri Hadzi

Greek / American
1921 - 2006


Dimitri Hadzi was born in 1921 in Greenwich Village, New York. Born to a family of immigrants, he grew up in Brooklyn and spent his afternoons at a Greek school where he learned the Greek language, history and mythology. At just the age of 8 years old, he won the Wanamaker Drawing Medal for his designs. In 1940, he graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School, specializing in chemistry, and began working in the laboratories of Interchemical Corporation. Simultaneously, he continued his studies at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. In 1943, he enlisted in the US Army and served as a communications technician in the South Pacific; however, he did not stop painting. In 1946, when he completed his military service he returned to California and hitchhiked along the east coast visiting museums on his way. He then moved to New York and enrolled in the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art’s afternoon study program, leaving his career as a chemist behind. Among his professors were George Katrina, Robert Gwathmey, Morris Kantor, Nicholas Marsicano, John Hovannes and Milton Hebald. During this period, he studied and was influenced by the work of Henry Moore as well as the surrealists and the cubists. In 1948, he also studied painting under Ralston Crawford at the Brooklyn Museum Art School. Two years later, he was awarded a scholarship from the Fulbright program in order study stone carving at the National Technical University of Athens. His stay in Greece brought him in touch with archaic and classical sculpture. He also traveled to Turkey and Egypt where he learned more about the local culture. Subsequently, in 1951, he traveled to Rome where he remained with the support of the G.I. Bill program, which offered him the opportunity to pursue his studies at the Studio Hinna. Based in Rome, he continued to travel in several places in Europe, visiting art spaces while he was getting more involved with Italy's artistic circles. In 1952, he became member of the Museo Artistico e Industriale and studied the modern Roman art scene. In 1953, he married art historian and archaeologist Martha Leeb and, in 1956, he participated in the New Talent IX Exhibition at the MoMA in New York. In 1957, he was awarded a scholarship from the Guggenheim Foundation and, in 1958, he held his first solo exhibition at the Galleria Schneider in Rome. His deep connection with his Greek origin, his contact with Roman culture and the need to explore their symbolic and direct relationship with modern reality is evident from his early artworks. Working mainly with bronze and later with stone, he found inspiration and titles for his works from Greek mythology, history and antiquity. He gave life to his works by sculpturally utilizing abstract and expressionist idioms, and by producing compositions of organic shapes and of allusive and distorted forms, which referred to human of animal body parts, architectural elements as well as symbolic motifs. Having succeeded in establishing a personal expressive vocabulary, the years that followed until the end of his life, he presented his works in numerous exhibitions and secured a large number of commissions and orders from major institutions and public operators for the implementation of monumental sculptures in outdoor spaces. In 1962, he was commissioned to design the bronze gates of the St. Paul's Within the Walls Episcopal Church in Rome by George E. Street and, in 1965, he was selected by MoMA to participate in the exhibition Modern Sculpture USA at the Rodin Museum in Paris. He began teaching sculpture and engraving at Harvard University's Visual and Environmental Studies department in 1975, and maintained a studio at the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts – a building designed by Le Corbusier. In 1983, he was elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York and, in 1984, he traveled to Asia and Central America. In 1985, he married Cynthia Von Thuna and, in 1990, he became a member of the US National Academy of Design. During the last years of his career he created sculptures in smaller dimensions and also experimented with the use of color. He died in Boston in the spring of 2006 from kidney failure. His works can be found in public spaces such as the Harvard Square in Massachusetts, the Hayden Library at the MIT, the Princeton University in New Jersey, the Lincoln Center in New York, the Charles Center in Baltimore, the John F. Kennedy Federal Building in Boston, the Alton Baker Park in Eugene and in many others, as well as in the collections of the MoMA, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Solomor R. Guggenheim Museum in York, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, among others. He participated in exhibitions in museums and institutions such as the Whitney Museum of American Art (1960)(1961)(1963) in New York, the Venice Biennale (1956)(1958)(1962), the Carnegie Institute (1958)(1967) in Washington, the MoMA (1956)(1959) in New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1962)(1979) in New York, the Smithsonian Institution (1980) in Washington, Europalia (1982) in Brussels. Retrospective exhibitions of his have been organized, among others, by the Temple University (1968) in Philadelphia, the Jodi Scully Gallery (1973) in Los Angeles and the Sert Gallery (1989) in Massachusetts. Some of the awards he received for his work include the award from the Deruta International Ceramics Competition (1954), the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award (1955), the award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1962) and the Augustus Saint – Gaudens Medal (1989).