T02241 Head c.1923-4
Celluloid, 3 x 1 1/2 x 2 (7.7 x 4 x 5.2), excluding celluloid base
Presented by Mrs Miriam Gabo 1977
Prov: Naum Gabo, Middlebury, Conn.; Mrs Miriam Gabo, Middlebury
Like T02242, this small sculpture came to light in Naum Gabo's house a few days after his death and was thought at first to be by him. It has a certain resemblance to his 'Constructed Head No.1' 1915, but differs in a number of important respects. Not only is it in celluloid instead of in wood, but it is more symmetrical and lacks the upper part of the head, ending instead in a horizontal plane. Compared with 'Constructed Head No.1', which is rigorously constructed in a stereometric way, the treatment is much more pictorial. The profile was cut out of the same sheet of celluloid as the base, one side of which shows the profile in the negative.
Gabo does not seem to have begun to work in celluloid and plastic until about 1920 and it seems unlikely that he would have made a miniature variant of his 1915 head at that time. In any case the features mentioned above all suggest that it is not by him and that it is more likely to be by his brother Antoine Pevsner, who only began to make sculpture about 1923-4 after having previously been a painter, and who started as a sculptor very much under Gabo's influence. Gabo told the compiler in 1972 that he regarded Pevsner as more or less his pupil in sculpture and that he allowed him to make variants of some of his own early pieces. Various points about this model, such as its symmetry and the way the nose is made out of two sheets of celluloid with a channel between them, are similar to some of Pevsner's earliest known sculptures. The fact that it is rather clumsily put together and is still quite naturalistic in profile view suggests that it may have been one of Pevsner's first experiments in sculpture in the round, perhaps even his very first piece, which he then gave to his brother as a souvenir.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.586, reproduced p.586