Boxing and the Jewish Artist

The Dulwich Picture Gallery in London will be playing host to an exhibition of the work of the little-known artist Sam Rabin. Born in Manchester in 1908 of Russian-Jewish immigrant parents (his father had been a cap-maker in Vitebsk), Rabin won a scholarship to Manchester School of Art and later studied at the Slade. Returning to England in 1925 after a year in Paris, he established a considerable reputation as a sculptor. In 1928 he participated, with Epstein, Moore, Gill and others, in the decorative scheme “The Four Winds” for the new London Transport headquarters, and in 1930 created the Youth and Age sculptures for the facade of the Daily Telegraph building in Fleet Street. At about the same time, he was gaining fame as a wrestler—he represented Britain in the 1928 Olympic Games—and as a boxer, a sport in which Jews have traditionally excelled. Incidentally, he played the part of the 18th century Jewish boxer Daniel Mendoza in Alexander Korda’s film The Scarlet Pimpernel. The possessor of a fine bass-baritone voice, Rabin turned to singing as a career in the 1940s. He resumed his career as an artist in 1949 and taught drawing at Goldsmiths’ College and Bournemouth College of Art; he now teaches at Poole Art Centre. Boxing has been his obsession since the late 1920s and it remains the main theme of his art, fascinating him not only for personal, human, dramatic and historical reasons but also for the possibilities it offers for capturing the human body in movement.

Jewish Quarterly Winter 1985

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.