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Biographical/Historical Information

Joseph Floch was born in Vienna, Austria in 1895. He showed signs of artistic talent at an early age and became successful as a painter throughout Europe and the United States. He spent World War I in Holland studying at the Academy of Fine Arts and until later on in the war managed to evade military service. When eventually he was conscripted, he convinced the military that he was unable to fight for medical reasons and was placed in an office. After the war, he worked in Vienna until 1924 when he moved to Paris. There he remained for the following 17 years working in his own studio and he enjoyed great success in Paris. He married Hermine née Fränkl in 1925 who was a close family friend, ten years his junior. In 1941, Floch and his family immigrated to the United States in order to escape Nazi persecution. He lived and worked in New York until his death in 1977.

Helen Heller (1919-1974) was born as Helen Olive Ek in Pearl River, NY, the fourth child of Swedish immigrants who came to America in the early 1900s. Heller studied photography, dance, and sculpture, often combining the disciplines in her creative efforts. She studied sculpture in the United States and at the Academy of Applied Arts in Vienna. The subjects of her art works included portrait busts of emigre colleagues and friends, modern dancers, Austrian famers, mothers with their children, and victims of the Vietnam War. Heller exhibited sculpture and dance photography in several shows in New York City and in West Chester, NY. She also published two children's books and taught interpretive dance to poor and underserved children at the Ossining Children’s Center. Her art and life reflected her commitment to multiculturalism, racial equality, acceptance of people with different sexual preferences, early feminism, and anti-war imagery.

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Heller, Helen: Bust of Joseph Floch, Leo Baeck Institute, 2019.26.