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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pop Art Sculptor George Segal Dead at 75

NEW YORK -- Sculptor George Segal, a pop art icon of the 1960s known for life-size plaster casts that show common people in everyday situations, has died after a long illness, his New York dealer said. He was 75.

David Janis, whose family represented Segal for 30 years, said the artist died last Friday at his home in South Brunswick, New Jersey.

Segal, who was born in the Bronx and raised during the Depression, began his career as a painter but started making sculptures out of chicken wire and plaster in the 1950s.

"Segal was the most influential figurative sculptor of the 20th century, and certainly one of the most important of the 20th century, period," Janis said Saturday. "He had a very sophisticated and deep understanding of people and expressed that through his sculpture."

In 1960, Segal got the idea to make life-size plaster sculptures when a student brought him a supply of medical scrim used by doctors to make casts for broken bones and he asked his wife to wrap him in the plaster-soaked gauze.

"He was his [own] first subject," Janis said.

Segal titled the sculpture "Man at a Table," and later wrote of the work: "People call what I created sculpture. But my own reaction to it is as to the presence of man in his daily life."

Unlike fellow pop artists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein who got their inspiration from comics, magazines and advertisements, Segal focused on average people.

Segal assembled tableaux of his life-sized white plaster figures in everyday situations such as pedestrians paused at a crosswalk or a woman lying on a bed. One of his best known works depicted a Depression-era bread line with care-worn figures in bronze installed at the memorial to President Franklin Roosevelt in Washington.

The sculptor portrayed daily life "while profoundly capturing the depth of human emotions in his figures," the United States' National Endowment for the Arts said last year when President Bill Clinton awarded Segal a national medal.

Segal grew up in New York and studied art at the Cooper Union Art School, Pratt Institute, New York University, and at Rutgers University in New Jersey.