Zolnay, George Julian, sculptor, was born in Hungary, July 4, 1863 ; son of Ignatius and Caroline Vagan (Peed) Zolnay. His father was obliged to remove to Romania in 1848 for his participation in the revolution against Austria. George Julian attended the high school at Bucharest and while there won a scholarship in the Royal Romanian Conservatory of Music which he wished to use in studying violin, but his father dissuaded him and he continued his college course but gave considerable attention to art. He joined a regiment of cavalry in 1883 and while in this service modeled portrait busts and figures of horses, in clay, and in this way encouraged his taste for sculpture. He modeled a statue of Tudor, the Romanian patriot, heroic size, during a summer vacation, digging and washing his clay, making his tools and building the kiln in which to bake the work when modeled, and his success led his father to consent to allow him to go to Paris to study. Later he studied at the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, under Ed Hellmer and Carl Kundman and was graduated with high honors, which included the academy prize, a free studio, and a cash allowance for working models. His statue of Tudor was purchased by the Romanian government and placed in the Military Academy. He came to the United States in 1892 to carry out a commission for the Columbian Exposition and he became a citizen and made his home in New York city. He exhibited at Nashville, Tenn., in 1897, a bust of Sam Davis, the Confederate Spy, conceived and executed in that city before the opening of the Exposition. His conception of the hero, who preferred to sacrifice his life rather than betray a friend, he gained by visiting the surviving relatives and friends of his subject, with the help of portraits of Davis’s father and mother, and his success led to a commission of a full length heroic size figure of Davis for a monument to be erected on Capital Hill, Nashville. He also executed a bust of Edgar Allan Poe (q.v.) for the University of Virginia, a tympanum for the same institution, a bronze statue of President Jefferson Davis (q.v.) and the memorial erected at the grave of his daughter Varina Anne Davis (q.v.) in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Va., a cast of which was made for the National Museum of Art at Bucharest. He made the soldier monument which the Confederate Veterans erected at Owensboro. Ky. He also has busts of Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, Wagner, and Mozart in various cities of Europe. King Charles I of Romania conferred on him the Order of the Crown with the title of Chevalier, a high distinction for the artist and for American Art.
Source: Lamb’s Biographical Dictionary of The United States, Edited By John Howard Brown, James H. Lamb Company, Boston, 1899