Jacques Lipchitz

Bull and Condor

1932, cast 1960s

Original title
Le Taureau et le condor
Object: 210 x 325 x 150mm
Presented by the Lipchitz Foundation 1982

Display caption

The poet Juan Larrea told Lipchitz about fiestas in Peru where a condor is bound to a bull so that they fight. Lipchitz said that he heard the story at a time when he was profoundly depressed by the rise of Nazism, and that: 'the bull and the condor, and particularly the human beings who delighted in their struggle, signified the insane brutality of the world.' The rough handling of this maquette embodies the violence of its subject. Although he acknowledged its potential, Lipchitz never made a larger-scale work on this theme.

Gallery label, August 2004

Technique and condition

The original clay master had a modelled and applied surface of small buttons of clay modelled, manipulated and shaped. The clay was scarred and undercut with modelling tools to create a jagged texture with an intentionally rough finish. Two small macquettes of this same theme were made in 1932 and a relief in 1933.

Most of Lipchitz’s plasters can be recognised as primary plasters, cast from moulds taken directly from the clay models. Some are cast from the plaster cast, made specifically for casting in bronze. In many cases the plasters retain evidence in their surface of gelatine mould residue and raised mould lines, either left, or reworked and smoothed after casting; or evidence of surface pointing marks used by stone carvers. Not all the primary plasters were translated into other mediums. Many plasters contain wood and wire armatures to support and strengthen the structures. These would have been secreted inside the negative gelatine mould before pouring the liquid plaster. In some plasters the corroding wires have stained brown or distorted the surface. In many cases they remain hidden and will only be revealed with a strong magnet or more accurately, under X-ray examination.

This cast of the bull and Condor was signed under the base when the clay was still wet leaving an incised inscription, J Lipchitz, and in blue paint the number 152. This cast is the only 1960’s plaster in the Tate collection that is signed in full.

Arnason 1969. rep. 82 (bronze); Lipchitz 1972, pp 127-8.
The Lipchitz Gift 1986. Tate pp15-17.

Sandra Deighton
February 2005

Catalogue entry

T03513 Bull and Condor 1932

Plaster 8 1/4 × 12 1/2 × 6 1/4 (209 × 317 × 158)
Inscribed ‘J Lipchitz’ incised under base, and ‘152’ in blue paint under base
Presented by the Lipchitz Foundation 1982
Lit: Irene Patai, Encounters: The Life of Jacques Lipchitz, 1961, pp.260–1; Arnason 1969, repr.82 (bronze); Lipchitz 1972, pp.127–8

Two maquettes were made of this subject in 1932, but Lipchitz did not make a larger version. Bronze casts of both were exhibited in 1958 (Jacques Lipchitz, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, March–May 1958, nos. 65 and 69). In his autobiography Lipchitz stresses that he used a rough technique for these, appropriate to the violent subject:

In 1932, when my friend the poet Larrea returned from Peru, he told me a story about fiestas where the feet of a condor are sewn into the back of the bull and they are then let loose in an arena. There results a fantastic and horrible battle until one or both are killed. This story moved me deeply. At the moment when Hitler and the Nazis were in power in Germany, I was entering upon a period of profound depression and I felt that the bull and the condor, and particularly the human beings who delighted in their struggle, signified the insane brutality of the world.

I made two maquettes of the theme in 1932 as well as a relief in 1933, in all of which I tried to express the horror and the furious struggle of the event. These are modelled with a passion that reflects my emotions in the face of this frightening conflict. The clay is scarred, undercut and torn like the bodies of the fighters. The jagged textures and contours emphasize further the violence of the scene. This is a work that I should have made into a large sculpture: why I did not do so, I do not know. In its violence and textural freedom it looks forward to the most expressive sculptures of the 1940s and 1950s, in many of which the bull, which appears here for the first time, again becomes a symbol of suffering in many different contexts (Lipchitz, loc.cit.).

The Spanish poet Juan Larrea, who lived near Lipchitz in Boulogne-sur-Seine in the 1930s, later published a book on Picasso's ‘Guernica’ (Curt Valentin, New York, 1957) and both he and Lipchitz spoke at a symposium on ‘Guernica’ at the Museum of Modern Art, New York on 25 November 1947.

The plaster was signed under the base when wet, and was cast in the early 1960s. An undated wash drawing (Lipchitz 1972, repr.114b) is close in appearance to this model, and was probably drawn after it.

[For T03397 and T03479 to T03534 the foundry inscriptions, and reproductions of casts in other materials in the books listed below, are recorded. Abbreviations used:

Arnason 1969 H.H. Arnason, Jacques Lipchitz: Sketches in Bronze, 1969

Lipchitz 1972 Jacques Lipchitz, My Life in Sculpture, 1972

Stott 1975 Deborah A. Stott, Jacques Lipchitz and Cubism, 1975 (reprinted 1978)

Otterlo 1977 A.M. Hammacher, Lipchitz in Otterlo, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, 1977

Centre Pompidou 1978 Nicole Barbier, Lipchitz: oeuvres de Jacques Lipchitz (1891–1973) dans les collections du Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, 1978

Arizona 1982 Jacques Lipchitz. Sketches and Models in the collection of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson, Arizona. Introduction and catalogue by Peter Bermingham, 1982]

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986