Sir Jacob Epstein

Somerset Maugham

1951

Medium
Bronze
Dimensions
Displayed: 477 x 225 x 250 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by William Somerset Maugham 1952
Reference
N06132

Display caption

From the 1920s Epstein modelled highly successful portrait busts. In 1951 the novelist and playwright Somerset Maugham sat to him. Maugham later offered the portrait to the Tate, commenting, 'I have a great dislike of living in the same house with effigies of myself'. It is interesting to compare this sculpture with Graham Sutherland's 1949 portrait of Maugham. Both works convey a sense of Maugham's refined dignity. Comparisons can also be made with Giacometti's portrait of Jean Genet, which hangs close by. The lines and creases, for example, used by Epstein to describe the sitter's distinguished brow, are not unlike those used by Giacometti to suggest the entire form of Genet's head.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

N06132 SOMERSET MAUGHAM 1951
 
Not inscribed.
Bronze, 15 1/2×9×9 (39×23×23).
Presented by Somerset Maugham 1952.
Exh: Arts Council, Tate Gallery, September–November 1952 (59), lent by the sculptor.
Lit: Epstein, 1955, p.235; Buckle, 1963, pp.354, 429, plaster repr. pl.549.

Somerset Maugham (b. 1874), novelist and playwright, author of Liza of Lambeth, The Moon and Sixpence, The Razor's Edge, etc., sat for this portrait in 1951. When offering the bronze to the Tate Gallery he wrote (3 December 1952): ‘I have a great dislike of living in the same house with effigies of myself.’ For other portraits of him see Kelly, N04703, and Sutherland, N06034.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I