Universal Quality About Work of Artist as Well as Himself
by Virginia Ford Menadue
© 1941, Reprinted from the Buffalo Courier Express, Buffalo, New York

Timelessness proves greatness; sincerity and unbiased thinking is evident.
Photo: Destiny, by William Ehrich, German-born sculptor-teacher, depicts humanity's never-ending yet patient struggle.

WILLIAM EHRICH was born July 12, 1987 in Königsberg, East Prussia, the birthplace of the philosopher, Emanuel Kant. He was the oldest of six children, both parents coming from a family of peasants.

As was customary in Europe at that time, Ehrich became apprenticed to a woodcarver and worked with him for four years, spending 10 hours daily at his regular work and putting in many hours overtime carving for his own pleasure. When he was seventeen he was drafted into the army, and served with the Central Powers in World War I. He was taken prisoner by the Russians and held in prison camp in the Ukraine for twenty months, working in the salt mines there. Mr. Ehrich says the prisoners were treated well by the Russians, were paid for their work, and were popular.

To U.S. in 1929

When the war was over, Ehrich continued his studies with Professor Erich Schmidt-Kestner, traveled and assisted Prof. Stanislaus Cauer of the Fine Arts Academy of Königsberg and the ceramist Franz Threyne. He designed and executed several large bronze tablets for the Tannenberg War Memorial and free-lanced in architectural sculpture. His relatives believed that Ehrich would become a maker of gravestones, that there lay his future - which Ehrich naturally resented.

So in 1929, three years after he had married, he realized a boyhood dream and came to the United States and eventually to Buffalo where he became a citizen. In this country Ehrich saw, and rightly so, new freedom and a rich future which he had not been able to see elsewhere. After three years of hard struggle, he exhibited for the first time in Buffalo and received honorable mention for entry, Striding Woman. He was acclaimed immediately and the next year began teaching sculpture at the Art Institute of Buffalo.

Mr. Ehrich was first sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Weiss, through whose personal contact and interest he was able to carry on his work. In 1937, he was invited to teach creative sculpture at the College of Arts and Science of the University of Rochester, where he still teaches. He also conducts classes at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester and in Niagara Falls.

Ehrich has exhibited in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, New York and Kansas City - just completing a one-man show at the Clay Club in New York. He has won many, many awards for sculpture, drawing and ceramic. One is impressed not by the list of awards and prizes alone, but by the timeliness of his work, which is proof of its greatness, by the sincerity and the clear unbiased thinking behind it.

Universal Quality in Work

You will find in this man's work no sign of any nationalistic feeling, no boundaries of time, no limits of scholastic influence. There is a universal quality about the artist and about his output. Although he is not hampered by his media, he always gives the impression of the closeness between the original piece of wood or stone and the finished product. In the words of the artist himself, he feels that each completed piece is similar to a child just born and that the process of its naissance is strongly like that of the process of natural birth.

There is a quiet strength about Destiny whose simplicity cannot help but hold you. Although Mr. Ehrich does not like the idea of an "explanation" of any work of art, he did say that Destiny grew out of his observation of the life around him when he was struggling so hard to make a place for himself in this country. Destiny portrays a mother with a child and another child, yet to be born, behind her - depicting the never-ending patient struggle of humanity and the inevitability of this struggle.

In Destiny the permanent collection of the Albright Art Gallery has a splendid addition to its nationally famous group of sculpture.