The motif of the heart began appearing in Dine's work in the mid-1960s, often in his theatrical designs, or in collages which drew upon Picabia's L'Oeil cacodylate, 1921 (Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris). The heart evokes childhood notions of romantic love as well having more sensual connotations. Dine said about them: 'The hearts were a prime object. Yes, the shape! It means a lot of things. It doesn't just mean love, it's anatomical, it's all kinds of things. It refers to all kinds of anatomy, too. But is also was a way for me to hang painting onto something.' (quoted in David Shapiro, Jim Dine, New York 1981, p.204)
In 1971, following his move to Vermont, Dine began a series of large paintings with a heart occupying the entire canvas, against which were juxtaposed tools and objects. He shortly thereafter abandoned the heart motif, not returning to it for a decade. He explained:
These pictures were made this spring and summer when I was deeply concerned for a comrade who was trying to recover from a severe mental disorder. They come from that part of the body that is one's 'studio of the soul'... I have sometimes used a familiar theme (like the heart) to try and exorcise my dear friend's demons and to lose my way in its comforting paths and foliage.
(quoted in Jim Dine Recent Work, exhibition catalogue, Pace Gallery, New York 1981, [p.3])
This wall-mounted bronze relief is one of two heart sculptures of 1983, the other being a painted bronze The Heart on a Rock, produced in an edition of six. Both works refer to Dine's earlier pieces Five Chicken Wire Hearts (John Peto), 1969 (destroyed) and Nancy and I at Ithaca (Straw Heart), 1966-9, which was originally part of a larger sculpture made in 1967.
The House (Heart) is one of an edition of three bronze casts. The original clay model had embedded into it the following tools and objects: a brick, two conch shells, two axes, two hammers (one claw hammer), a saw handle, a clamp, a spanner, a mallet and a bronze Venus de Milo. Hand marks were also impressed. Dine stated that tools are 'the link with our past, the human past, the hand' (Jim Dine: Five Themes, exhibition catalogue, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis 1984, p.102). Dine's family owned a hardware store in Cincinnati and his grandfather thought of himself as a carpenter. Tools had featured in many of his earliest works, and were included in a number of the heart paintings of 1971. They became the focus of his work for several years in the 1970s.
Michael Edward Shapiro, 'Methods and Metaphors: The Sculpture of Jim Dine' in Jim Dine Sculpture and Drawings, exhibition catalogue, Pace Gallery, New York 1984, p.10, reproduced (also reproduced p.35 and in the original clay state p.29)
Peggy Moorman, 'Jim Dine - Sculpture', Artnews, vol.83, May 1984, p.161
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1988, pp.140-1, reproduced