Thanks to a recent grant from the Bank of America Art Works Preservation Project, "Abraham's farewell to Ishmael"(1987) George Seagal is shown for the first time after complete restoration. Seagal first began to make plaster casts of living models in 1961 and was known for his figurative sculptures throughout his career. The hyperrealism of these works makes the figures familiar and emotionally resonant. He made a series of works based on biblical stories, ranging from the Book of Genesis, including Abraham’s Farewell to Ishmael.
The sculpture explores the dilemma faced by the Old Testament Patriarch Abraham. In this story, Abraham’s wife, Sarah, seeks to ensure the inheritance right of her son Isaac, demanding that her husband drive Hagar and their firstborn, Ismail, out of his mistress. Abraham, having received the divine promise of the safety of Agara and Ishmael, reluctantly cast them out into the wilderness and, possibly, to death. Father’s tenderness, Sarah’s rage, and Agara’s uncompromising consent reflect a variety of human emotions. It can be said that this story contains the biblical roots of the current Arab-Israeli conflict, since the Jews are believed to be descended from Isaac, and the Muslims from the exiled Ishmael. Life-sized works invite the viewer to participate in the drama of a forced farewell. Moving around the figures, you can feel the psychological dynamics of this traumatic story. Unlike many previous plaster sculptures Segal, this work is painted in a dark and dark gray color. These colors contribute to the general feeling of sadness conveyed in the work.