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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Samuel Rabinovitch (later known as Sam Rabin) (1903–1991)

Sculptor, born in Manchester into a poor Russian Jewish family. In 1914 he won a scholarship to the Manchester School of Art. Rabin moved to the Slade School of Fine Art in 1921. Draughtsmanly skills were instilled in him, in Manchester by Adolphe Valette, and at the Slade by Henry Tonks. After the Slade, Rabinovitch studied in Paris, where he came under the influence of the sculptor, Charles Despiau. Back in London, in 1928, he secured his first big commission, for a relief of the West Wind, for Charles Holden’s London Underground Headquarters in Broadway, Westminster. This was a commission on which he worked alongside Jacob Epstein, Eric Gill, and Henry Moore, so that he became aligned with the forefront of the direct carving movement. Another small commission for masks of Past and Future, for the Daily Telegraph building, followed in 1929. After this, Rabinovitch felt obliged to relinquish sculpture. He changed his name to Sam Rabin, and embarked on a mixed career as a professional wrestler and film-actor. He performed as the Champion Wrestler alongside Charles Laughton in Alexander Korda’s The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933). During the Second World War, Rabin sang with the Army Classical Music Group, and in 1947–48 he performed frequently on radio music programmes. In 1949, he was appointed teacher of drawing at Goldsmiths’ College. In his second career as a visual artist, Rabin concentrated on depictions of the boxing ring, principally in coloured crayon. In 1965 he transferred from Goldsmiths’ to the Bournemouth and Poole College of Art, where he taught until 1985.

Bibliography: Mapping Sculpture; J. Sheeran, Introducing Sam Rabin, exh. cat. Dulwich Picture Gallery, November 1985–February 1986; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, pp. xxvi, 137–38.

Philip Ward-Jackson, May 2024