31 × 21 × 26 cm. (12 3/16 × 8 1/4 × 10 1/4 in.)
base: 10.7 × 17.2 × 18.5 cm. (4 3/16 × 6 3/4 × 7 5/16 in.)
Signed and stamped with artist's thumbprint, at nape of neck: J. Lipchitz
Commissioned from the artist by Henry Pearlman in 1952; Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation, after 1974.
Pearlman described the sittings for this portrait as “exhilarating.” Perhaps the artist and his patron discussed their mutual admiration of Cézanne’s work, or Lipchitz’s friendships with Soutine and Modigliani, whom he introduced in 1915. Lipchitz wrote of this work, “This is a good strong portrait and I believe reflects the simplicity and at the same time the force and intelligence of this remarkable man.” The artist believed that Pearlman had commissioned the work in part to assist him financially after a fire destroyed his studio.
I have had the good fortune to have my own portrait done by two great artists:
I have had the good fortune to have my own portrait done by two great artists: a painting by Oskar Kokoschka, and a sculpted head by Jacques Lipchitz. Both were exhilarating experiences. My sittings for the bust with Lipchitz totaled twenty-nine; they were at my office, and while sitting on a revolving stool, with my painting collection all about the room, and few distractions. If I had received nothing else for the money I had paid the artist, the experience would have been worth it.
Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973)
Lipchitz is one of the major luminaries of 20th-century sculpture. Over the course of seven decades, he developed an oeuvre that spans many currents and materials, and his work is particularly notable for its ongoing inventiveness. Lipchitz’s sculpture ranges from figurative to highly abstract, and from Cubism to an expressionistic and often allegorical style.
Born to a Jewish family in Druskieniki, Lithuania, Lipchitz developed an early ambition to become an artist. His father, a building contractor, did not approve, but in 1909, with his mother’s encouragement, Jacques was able to move to Paris to study. Lipchitz received academic training at the École des Beaux-Arts and Académie Julian before settling in Montparnasse, which was a hotbed of the avant-garde. He became close friends with such neighbors as Pablo Picasso, Chaïm Soutine, and Amedeo Modigliani. Lipchitz looked toward a wide array of non-European cultures for inspiration and was especially inspired by African art. His work in geometric and abstract styles gained him a reputation as the major figure of Cubist sculpture.
After several prosperous decades in France, Lipchitz fled to New York in 1942 to escape the Nazi occupation. Arriving with only the few possessions he carried, the artist soon developed a robust new body of work and was hailed as one of the leading European expatriate artists. Lipchitz continued to work in the abstract allegorical vein that he had begun in the 1930s, depicting the struggles of humankind against oppression and fascism, rendered through mythological figures such as Prometheus and Theseus. Although he suffered a major setback when his studio was destroyed by fire in 1952, an outpouring of support from the Museum of Modern Art and other donors (including Henry Pearlman) allowed him to build a major new studio on the Hudson River. Lipchitz continued his prolific and diverse output until the end of his life, including work on numerous commissions for public sculptures in the U.S. and abroad.