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 Jacques Lipchitz  (1891 - 1973)

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Lived/Active: New York / France/Italy      Known for: modernist sculpture, still life and figure painting

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Jacques (Chaim Jacob Jacques) Lipchitz
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Jacques Lipchitz, the eldest son of a wealthy Jewish contractor, was born in Druskieniki, Lithuania in 1891.  His interest in modeling and drawing was evident when he was in grade school.  At the age of 18, and against the wishes of his father to become an engineer, he departed for Paris to enroll in anatomy and stone carving classes at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts - at the encouragement of his mother and uncle.  He also studied at the Academie Julian and the Academie Colarossi.

In 1914, Lipchitz traveled with Diego Rivera to Madrid and Majorca, where he was introduced to Picasso, Max Jacob, Juan Gris, Modigliani, and other artists in the Cubist circle.  However, his greatest influence came from his interest in art history, providing him with an unlimited source of imagery.

Lipchitz applied theories of mathematics and proportion to the concepts of Braque and Picasso, as did many second generation Cubists.  A relatively new movement in art was being created, where curves, planes, lines, and their intersections and overlapping would form new relationships.  His works display a lifetime of continuous growth and exploration, spanning the Cubism style to Mannerism, and subjects from non-committal to those that carry profound visual symbolism. Although he was a leader in innovation and experimentation, his work never embraced total abstraction and never tried to escape from the reality of art as symbolic expression.

In the mid-1920s, Lipchitz began making sculptures in a distinctively new style. His sculptures were frequently constructed from bronze and engaged new ways of exploring light and space. These new works, called transparents, provided a greater emphasis on utilizing negative space. Although unpopular at the time, the works and ideas behind the transparents became popular with Picasso and Juan Gris.

After 1925, Lipchitz departed from the Cubist manner and began to soften the geometric angularity of his pieces into curvilinear, openwork sculptures whose expressive subjects were drawn from ancient mythology and the Bible.  He achieved naturalism in these works that can be seen in Woman Leaning on Elbow.

In 1941, Varian Fry was instrumental in facilitating Lipchitz to flee Vichy, France, to the United States -- during the German invasion of France. Lipchitz relocated in New York where he continued to fill commissions from all over the world including The Spirit of Enterprise, Fairmount Park, Philadelphia; Notre Dame de Liesse, Assy in Haute-Savoie; and his most famous work commissioned for the 1937 Paris Exposition Universelle entitled "Prometheus". (In the myth, the gods punish Prometheus for bringing fire to humans by turning him into stone and allowing a vulture to peck at his liver.  In the piece, however, Prometheus is shown unchained, strangling the vulture, used as a symbol of ignorance.)  In 1951, he presented Fry with his completed Embracing Figures.  In 1952, a fire destroyed and claimed most of Lipchitz' work.

In 1955, he began producing his celebrated semi-automatics-masses of clay or plasticine, which he would first mold underwater using only his sense of touch.

Examples of his work can be seen in the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, and the Barnes Foundation, Merion, Pennsylvania.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A sculptor who adapted Cubism to sculpture, Jacques Lipchitz was one of the leading sculptors of the 20th century.  He was born in Druskieniki, Lithuania and fled from Paris, where he had lived from his youth, to the United States in 1941 when the war was getting heavy.

He had studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris from 1909 to 1911 and at the Academy Julian.  He arrived in America when the Abstract Expressionist movement was beginning to take hold, and this likely influenced the much more emotional expression of the later part of his career.  His work was much more emotional and rounded in form than the earlier cubist work, and his subject matter was epic, reflecting his interest in myths, heroic tales and religious symbolism.  His largest work is Bellerophon Taming Pegasus, completed in 1964 for the Columbia University Law School and measuring 30 feet.

His sculpture, Bather, is in the sculpture garden of the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery in Lincoln, Nebraska, and following is the Gallery's website description of the work:

..."he presents multiple views of the figure in the conceptual realism style of the Cubist movement. This was the largest figure attempted by Lipchitz at this point in his career. He says of this work: 'I was returning to the problem of creating a cubist figure, free-standing in surrounding space, creating that space by its axial pivot. The legs are placed firmly at right angles to each other, and the circular movement is suggested by curvilinear forms of drapery enclosing the arm, actually enclosing space . . . It was in a sense my farewell to literal cubism, the record of the movement when it was no longer necessary for me to concentrate on the vocabulary of forms, when I could move onto a sculpture of themes and ideas.'

"Dictionary of American Sculptors," edited by Glenn Opitz
"Lipchitz, an Ocean Away From His Cubist Years," The New York Times on the Web, 3/17/2000.

Biography from
Jacques Lipchitz, Lithuanian (1891 - 1973)

Jacques Lipchitz was a Cubist sculptor. Jacques Lipchitz was born Chaim Jacob Lipchitz in Druskininkai, Lithuania, which then was under the rule of tsarist Russia Lithuania. Jacques was as a son of a Jewish building contractor. At first, under the influence of his father, he studied engineering, but soon after, supported by his mother, he moved to Paris (1909) to study at the École des Beaux-Arts and the Académie Julian.

It was there, in the artistic communities of Montmartre and Montparnasse that he joined a group of artists that included Juan Gris and Pablo Picasso and where his friend, Amedeo Modigliani, painted The Sculptor Jacques Lipchitz and His Wife Berthe Lipchitz.

Living in this environment, Lipchitz soon began to create Cubist sculptures. In 1912 he exhibited at the Salon National des Beaux-Arts and the Salon d'Automne with his first one-man show held at Léonce Rosenberg's Galerie L’Effort Moderne in Paris in 1920. In 1922 he was commissioned by the Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pennsylvania for five bas-reliefs.

With artistic innovation at its height, in the 1920s he experimented with abstract forms he called transparent sculptures. Later he developed a more dynamic style, which he applied with telling effect to bronze figure and animal compositions.

With the German occupation of France during World War II, and the deportation of Jews to the Nazi death camps, Jacques Lipchitz had to flee France. With the assistance of the American journalist Varian Fry in Marseille, he escaped the Nazi regime and went to the United States. There, he eventually settled in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

He was one of 250 sculptors who exhibited in the 3rd Sculpture International held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the summer of 1949. He has been identified in the LIFE Magazine photograph showing 70 of them. In 1954 a Lipchitz retrospective traveled from The Museum of Modern Art in New York to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and The Cleveland Museum of Art. In 1959, his series of small bronzes in an exhibition, "To the Limit of the Possible," was shown at Fine Arts Associates in New York.

Lipchitz taught one of the most famous contemporary artists, Marcel Mouly.

Beginning in 1963 he returned to Europe where he worked for several months of each year in Pietrasanta, Italy. In 1972 his autobiography was published on the occasion of an exhibition of his sculpture at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Jacques Lipchitz died in Capri, Italy. His body was flown to Jerusalem for burial.

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