This write-up was done for my first presentation for the Singapore Art Museum training. I’ve never heard of his name before I had to do this write-up on him. We all learn something new everyday 🙂
Jacques Lipchitz (1891 – 1973)
The influential 20th century sculptor Jacques Lipchitz was born in Lithuania in 1891 into a Jewish family. At first he studied engineering, but at age 18, with the support of his mother and the dismay of his father, he moved to Paris to study art. In 1914 he joined a group of artists which included Juan Gris and Pablo Picasso. This environment played a great role in influencing Lipchitz into adopting cubism in his work and rejecting his earlier, more classical style.
The authority in Cubism is generally considered to be in painting, but unlike other artists such as Picasso and Braque, Lipchitz did not dabble in painting but worked exclusively in sculptures (of course discounting his preparatory sketches and gouaches). Lipchitz was the first sculptor to embrace cubism completely and pioneered nonrepresentational sculptures. Other cubist artists also experimented with three-dimensional cubist constructions, but Lipchitz consistently worked with traditional methods and materials in delivering Cubist ideas.
One of the preoccupations of sculptors after the First World War was monumental pieces. Having created works for indoor environments, Lipchitz was working out how the same principles could be applied to outdoor, monumental sculptures. Man with Guitar (1920) is one result of his preoccupation with the monumental.
The sculpture combines two different views of a guitarist out of which a third, otherworldly bird-like profile emerge. Unlike any of his previous works, it is angular, blocky, masculine, and generates a sense of bulk. Its abbreviated forms are reduced into tightly integrated blocks. The sculptor said of his work:
“… is now completely frontalized, composed of massive, integrated blocks. I even eliminated the shaft of the guitar, squaring off the body and integrating it completely with the torso of the figure. The asymmetrical staring eyes give to the figure a peculiar sense of almost hypnotic power which emphasizes its specific human personality.”
Standing at only 53cm tall, it was initially visioned to be elevated on a pedestal. Lipchitz dubbed this and other small-scale works “easel sculptures”.
In the late 1920’s, Lipchitz’ style started to shift away from cubism as he got more interested in the curves of the human form. Under the German occupation of France in World War II and their persecution toward Jews, Lipchitz moved to U.S. This was where he renewed his style and introduced underlying lyrical and spiritual ideas in his work.
Sources and Readings:
Putz, Catherine. 2002. Jacques Lipchitz: the First Cubist Sculptor. London: Paul Holbertson Publishing.
Wilkinson, Alan G. 1996. The Sculpture of Jacques Lipchitz: a Catalogue Raissone Vol.1, the Paris Years 1910-1914. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd.
Jacques Lipchitz: Biography. http://www.answers.com/topic/jacques-lipchitz?cat=entertainment
Marlborough Gallery, NY. http:// http://www.marlboroughgallery.com/artists/lipchitz/Lipchitz%20pr-2007.pdf
Jacques Lipchitz: His Life in Sculpture. 1972. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, New Series, Vol.30, No.6. pp.284-288.