Net Worth Revealed

Selma Burke’s Birthday, Family, Bio

Selma Burke: The Sculptor Behind Iconic WorksWhen it comes to groundbreaking figures in the world of art, Selma Burke holds a prominent place. As a renowned sculptor, she has left an indelible mark on the art scene with her exquisite creations.

This article delves into her life, discussing her early days and the path she took to become the influential figure she is known as today.


1. Early Life and Background:

– Born on December 31, 1900, in Mooresville, North Carolina, Selma Burke grew up amidst a rich cultural heritage.

– African-American by descent, she faced the challenges prevalent during that era, yet her determination to pursue her passion for art remained unshaken. 2.

Education and Training:

– Burke’s artistic journey began when she enrolled at Winston-Salem University, where she honed her skills in painting and drawing. – It was during this time that she realized her true calling lay in sculpture, leading her to transfer to the St. Augustine’s School of Industrial Arts in Raleigh.

– There, she studied under the guidance of Arturo Castaeda, a renowned Mexican sculptor, who deeply influenced her artistic style. 3.

Influences and Style:

– Inspired by both classical and African art, Burke’s sculptures beautifully blend elements of realism and abstraction. – Her works often depict the human form, displaying a keen attention to detail and capturing the essence of her subjects with grace and sensitivity.

– Burke’s sculptures embody a sense of movement and vitality, expressing complex emotions through their expressive poses. 4.

Notable Works:

– Selma Burke is perhaps best known for her life-sized sculpture of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which she created for the Roosevelt dime in 1946.

– This iconic work remains a testament to her skill and has become an enduring symbol of American history. – Burke also created the “Together” statue, a powerful representation of unity and equality installed at the Logan International Airport in Boston.

– Throughout her career, she produced an extensive body of work, including numerous portrait busts and figurative sculptures, each showcasing her immense talent.

Before Fame

1. Early Career:

– After completing her education, Burke relocated to New York City to pursue her artistic career.

– She established a studio and began receiving commissions for her sculptures, quickly gaining recognition for her unique style and skill. 2.

Breakthrough and Recognition:

– In 1939, Burke’s talent was recognized when she won the prestigious Julius Rosenwald Fund Fellowship, which provided her with financial support to focus on her art. – This opportunity allowed her to travel to Europe, where she studied in Italy and France, immersing herself in the rich artistic traditions of these countries.

3. Teaching and Legacy:

– Later in her career, Selma Burke became a prominent figure in the art education sector, teaching at numerous institutions, including Columbia University.

– She was known for her dedication to promoting art and inspiring future generations of artists, firmly believing in the power of creativity to change lives. 4.

Awards and Honors:

– Over the years, Burke received several accolades for her contributions to the world of art, including the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors’ Gold Medal. – Her impact on the art community earned her a place in the National Academy of Design and the National Institute of Arts and Letters.


Selma Burke’s artistic legacy continues to inspire artists and art aficionados around the world. Through her exquisite sculptures, she left an everlasting impression on the art world, proving that talent and determination can overcome any obstacle.

Her ability to capture the essence of her subjects and infuse her sculptures with emotion is a testament to her skill and unwavering dedication. Selma Burke will forever be remembered as a pioneering sculptor who broke barriers and left an indelible mark on the art scene.


1. Lesser-Known Facts:

– Selma Burke’s journey as a sculptor was not without its challenges.

In fact, she faced significant gender and racial discrimination throughout her career. – She often had to overcome financial constraints, working multiple jobs to support her artistic pursuits.

– Burke’s famous sculpture of Franklin D. Roosevelt, which she created for the dime, faced controversy when it was initially attributed to another artist.

It was only after years of advocacy that she received the recognition she deserved. 2.

Influence on Other Artists:

– Selma Burke’s work continues to inspire countless artists today. Her ability to beautifully capture the human form and convey emotion has influenced generations of sculptors.

– Notable artists such as Elizabeth Catlett and Augusta Savage were inspired by Burke’s perseverance and artistry. 3.

Impact on African-American Art:

– As an African-American artist during a time of racial segregation, Selma Burke’s success and contributions were groundbreaking. – Her achievements paved the way for future generations of black artists, challenging stereotypes and creating a platform for African-American voices in the art world.

Family Life

1. Early Family Influences:

– Selma Burke’s upbringing played a pivotal role in shaping her artistic sensibilities.

– Her parents, Neal Burke and Mary Jackson Burke, encouraged her creativity and supported her dreams of becoming an artist. – Her father, a Baptist minister, introduced her to stories from the Bible, which later became a significant source of inspiration for her sculptures.

2. Marriage and Children:

– In 1928, Selma Burke married Herman Kobbe, a young musician.

They had two children together, but their marriage ended in divorce. – Despite the challenges of balancing her family life with her artistic pursuits, Burke remained deeply committed to both her children and her art.

3. Later Years and Legacy:

– Selma Burke continued to create art well into her later years, even as she faced health challenges.

– She passed away on August 29, 1995, leaving behind a lasting impact on the art world and a legacy that inspired future generations. – Her children, Mary and Ridgely, established the Selma Burke Art Center in North Carolina to honor their mother’s legacy and promote art education.

4. Recognition and Commemoration:

– In 2002, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp honoring Selma Burke’s sculpture of Franklin D.

Roosevelt, further solidifying her place in American history. – Today, Burke’s sculptures can be found in various museums, galleries, and public spaces, ensuring her artistry remains accessible to the public and continues to inspire.


Selma Burke’s life and art journey were marked by determination, resilience, and talent. Despite facing numerous obstacles, she broke barriers as an African-American female sculptor and left an indelible mark on the art world.

Her sculptures capture the beauty and complexity of the human form, effectively conveying emotions and telling stories. Burke’s legacy extends beyond her artistic achievements, as she inspired future generations of artists and challenged societal norms.

Her impact continues to resonate, serving as a beacon for all those who dare to dream and pursue their passions.

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