Zygmund Sazevich
1899 - 1968

Theme/Style – Modernism, figurative art, portraits

Media – Oils, drawings, sculptures, reliefs, murals, woodcarvings, graphic arts

Artistic Focus – Though his works are rare today, Zygmund Sazevich was a prolific, versatile and highly-regarded San Francisco Bay Area artist and instructor whose passion for his medium was evident not only in his sculptures and carvings, but also in his drawings and paintings. Sazevich believed that the two-dimensional rendering of the subject was integral to the process of sculpture, along with the necessity for the artist to have a feeling for the material with which he worked. His convictions were reflected in the great variety of woods, metals, and stone he used to create his sculptures, as well as in his paintings.

Career Highlights –

• Zygmund Sazevich was born in Russia in 1899, and studied briefly at the University in Kazan in 1917, before traveling to Manchuria where he lived and worked as an actor and stage scenery painter before emigrating to the U.S. via Japan in the early 1920s.
• Sazevich knew little English, and his first jobs in California were as a laborer; but he eventually saved enough money to enter the School of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, supporting himself by working as a house painter and helping stage plays for a local Russian theater company.
• Sazevich met Russian artist Eugene Ivanoff, and together they shared living quarters and studied at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. Sazevich was awarded two scholarships, one in painting and one in sculpture.
• During the 1920s Sazevich exhibited with the San Francisco Art Association, and in 1929 won first prize at their annual exhibit, followed by several sculpture commissions. That same year Sazevich and Ivanoff traveled to live and work in Paris.
• Back in San Francisco in 1931, Sazevich’s work was included in a show of garden sculptures at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, along with works by Adaline Kent, Ruth Cravath, and others. By 1935 he was working as a W.P.A. muralist. Sazevich and his wife Zena, a decorator, purchased a modest home in the City, which they filled with Sazevich’s sculptures, woodcarvings, and hand-made furniture.
• In 1939 Sazevich exhibited at San Francisco’s Golden Gate International Exposition. His cast terrazzo sculpture Mississippi won the 1940 purchase prize at the annual San Francisco Art Association exhibition, and he had a one-man show at the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1941.
• During World War II, Sazevich worked in a shipyard creating wood patterns, and in later years he designed and made hand-blocked Christmas cards that were in great demand. His clients included celebrities such as Greer Garson, Joan Fontaine, and Red Skelton.
• From the late 1940s until the 1960s, Sazevich taught art classes, both at the California School of Fine Arts and at Mills College in Oakland.
• He continued to exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Art through the 1950s, and in 1953 was featured in the museum’s Four Sculptors of the West show. Sazevich also had two solo shows at Mills College in 1950 and 1954, and a show at Raymond & Raymond in San Francisco in 1951.
• Zygmund Sazevich passed away in San Francisco in 1968. In 1982 his work was included in The Oakland Museum’s seminal exhibition 100 Years of California Sculpture.

back