Gallery Artists > Emry Kopta Biography :

Emry Kopta (1884 - 1953)  Artworks >>

Born in Graz, Austria, Emry Kopta was a sculptor especially noted for his expressive terra-cotta portrait busts of Hopi Indians. Many of the models have been destroyed, but during his lifetime and after his death, several were cast in bronze. His work is described by art historian Patricia Broder as "strong, emotional statements of the tragedy of the Indian confined to life on the reservation. His sculptures express a deep sense of weariness and sorrow. The heads are realistically conceived, yet simplified in detail, to insure the strongest dramatic impact." (227-229) Kopta was born in Graz, Austria and was raised in Czechoslovakia in privileged circumstances that included private tutors and school in Cologne, Germany. His father, Wenzel Kopta, was a famous concert violinist, and his mother was from Philadelphia and had met her husband when he was on a concert tour of America. The family moved to San Francisco, California in 1900 when Emry was sixteen, and they also purchased a ranch they called Red Rock in northern California along the Sacramento River. Spending time there working on the ranch, Emry imagined himself becoming a cowboy, but his dreams for that life ended when he fell from a horse and had a serious injury. He returned to San Francisco, focused on his art talent and enrolled at the Mark Hopkins Art Institute in 1904. However, the school was destroyed in 1906 in the earthquake and fire, so Emry Kopta went to Paris and studied five years at the Sorbonne. He then opened a gallery in Los Angeles, and in 1918, exhibited sculpture at the California Liberty Fair. In 1912, Emry Kopta, along with painter and illustrator Lon Megargee, responded to an invitation by Don Lorenzo Hubbell to come to the Navaho Reservation in northern Arizona. Hubbell had a trading post, which was one of the first businesses in Arizona operated by Caucasian people. At the Hubbell Trading Post, Kopta and Megargee observed and sketched the Indians, Hopi as well as Navajo, as they went about their daily life. Kopta was so intrigued that he moved from Los Angeles to Arizona, and for twelve years lived on the Hopi Reservation with Indian trader Tom Tavatewa and established a studio at First Mesa. Kopta married in 1923, and he and his bride, Anna, moved briefly to Santa Fe but stayed less than a year, and in 1924 settled permanently in Phoenix. Most summers they visited the Hopi Reservation and Kopta worked in the villages of the First, Second and Third Mesas. In the 1930s, Kopta worked for the Phoenix Public Works Art Project and did a design for a decorative fountain intended to be the focal point for the campus at Arizona State Teachers College, now Arizona State University. He chose Hopi legend and ritual as his theme, but there was not enough money to complete his idea, so the completed fountain is a truncated version. Emry Kopta died in Phoenix on May 20, 1953. Reference:

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