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Sculptor Victor Ries, 103, honored in Oakland as a living treasure

Victor Ries, a 103-year-old sculptor who resides at the Reutlinger Center for Jewish Living in Danville, was honored as a Living National Treasure in December.

Ries received the recognition Dec. 7 in the chambers of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in Oakland.

Ries was born in Berlin, Germany, where he developed a sculpting style that was rooted in the Bauhaus tradition. He escaped the Nazis and immigrated to pre-state Israel, where famed architect Eric Mendelsohn commissioned him to design major works. Later, Ries immigrated to California, where he became a founding member of the legendary Pond Farm artists’ colony, near Guerneville, in the early 1940s. Ries later lived in Berkeley for many years.

Ries made many contributions to modern liturgical metal arts and crafts in the United States and was a noted teacher, as well.

In the Bay Area, his narrative window screens depicting Jewish holidays at Temple Beth Abraham in Oakland are considered to be among the finest examples of modern Jewish synagogue art in the world. He also created the distinctive gate at the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley.

He also had one-man shows at many marquee museums, including the de Young in San Francisco and the Jewish Museum in New York. On his 100th birthday in 2007, some of his works were displayed at the Jewish Heritage Museum at Reutlinger in Danville.

The Living National Treasure is a title, awarded in several countries, that denotes a person as a national treasure while he or she is still alive.