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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.

August 2004