Naum Gabo, a prominent Constructivist sculptor and pioneer of Kinetic Art, was born Naum Pevsner in Russia. He later changed his name to avoid confusion with his brother Antoine Pevsner, a cubist painter. He trained in Munich (1910-12) first as a doctor, then as a natural scientist, and finally as an engineer, and was much influenced by the art history lectures of Heinrich Wolfflin. While in Munich he met Kandinsky and discovered abstract art, and in 1913-14 joined his brother Antoine in Paris, where he met other cubist painters. In 1917 the brothers returned to Moscow where they became involved with Tatlin, Malevich, Rodchenko and Kandinsky in the turbulent art-politics of the post-Revolutionary period. In 1920 Gabo and Pevsner broke with Tatlin and the other artists by issuing their ‘Realist Manifesto’ in which for the first time the theory of pure Constructivism was propounded.
In 1922 Gabo and Pevsner were invited to Germany to stage the first exhibition of contemporary Russian art, and decided not to return to Moscow. Gabo spent ten years in Berlin, during which period he came into contact with the de Stijl movement and the Bauhaus school. From 1932 to 1935 he was in Paris, and then moved to England, where he remained until 1946. From 1939 he was at Carbis Bay, near St Ives, where Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth also lived. Gabo’s work and theories had a profound effect on them both. In 1937 he, Nicholson and Leslie Martin edited the journal ‘Circle’, and Gabo’s essays on Constructivism and the principles of Kinetic Art had a lasting impact on a generation of British architects, sculptors and designers.
In 1946 Gabo moved to the United States, and became an American citizen in 1952. He taught at Harvard and was commissioned to carry out numerous large public projects in the US and Europe. He was given an honorary knighthood in 1972, and an honorary doctorate by the Royal College of Art. The Tate Gallery, which has a large collection of his sculptures and drawings, held a major retrospective exhibition of his work in 1976.