Tomas Penning

(1905 – 1982)

Born in Glidden, Wisconsin in 1905, sculptor Tomas Penning began his education at Chicago’s DePaul University and at the National Academy of Art, Chicago, where he was a pupil of Edouard Chassaing. Having won the Alexander Revelle Prize for Sculpture, Penning moved to New York where he attended the Beaux Arts School. In the summer of 1933, Penning moved to Woodstock, NY where he began studying with the renowned Russian sculptor Alexander Archipenko, a recent émigré.  Penning was soon named the manager of the Archipenko Art School.

Tom Penning was not a pedantically religious man but found artistic and spiritual inspiration in early Christian stone sculpture and architecture. He was also inspired by the beauty and simplicity of Mayan art he explored in the Yucatan.

The Penning home and studio was a locus for amazing gatherings. These included all manner of friends from local stone quarrymen (whom he greatly admired) to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, who offered critical support for the arts during the Great Depression.  In later years philosopher Joseph Campbell was also a frequent guest.

Penning was a great proponent of native bluestone as a carving medium. During the depression he was engaged by F.D.R’s New Deal National Youth Administration to design an arts and crafts center in Woodstock. The resulting bluestone buildings (now the home of the Woodstock School of Art) were dedicated by Mrs. Franklin Roosevelt in 1939.

Penning’s work has been exhibited at museums throughout the country including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art and the Metropolitan Museum, New York

He was commissioned by the Liturgical Art Society to create artwork for installation in catholic parishes throughout the country. New York commissions include St. Mary of the Snow, Saugerties, NY; Our Lady of the Hudson, Esopus, NY; Thomas & Mina Edison Memorial, Chatauqua, NY; and St. Patrick and the Wolfhounds, Verplank, NY.

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