Auguste Rodin’s seminal work The Kiss (1901-14) has graced the foyer of Tate Liverpool since September 2007, as part of DLA Piper Series: The Twentieth Century – How it looked & how it felt. As the display draws to a close, Rodin’s famous sculpture will leave the foyer as it arrived - through the window - and will make way for a new work.
Jacob Epstein’s Jacob and the Angel (1940-1) will take up residence in the Tate Liverpool foyer from Monday 16 March as part of the forthcoming display DLA Piper Series – This is Sculpture which opens to the public on 1 May 2009. The sculpture is inspired by a story from the Old Testament of how Jacob tricked his father, Isaac, into giving him the birthright belonging to Esau, his elder brother. Later, at a crisis in his life, Jacob wrestles through the night with an unknown assailant. Epstein’s sculpture shows the angel supporting Jacob, who has just collapsed. At this moment Jacob realises he has been fighting God and in the morning the angel blesses him for not giving up. The work has been seen a representing the struggle of an artist with his materials, as well as the struggles of European Jews during the Second World War.
Jacob and the Angel has enjoyed a rich and colourful history, including a long-established connection with Liverpool. While Jacob and the Angel was spared the extraordinary hostility meted out to Epstein’s earlier works, the sculpture was considered sufficiently sensational to be acquired by entrepreneur Charles Stafford and exhibited as a sideshow attraction in a Blackpool funfair. It then toured Britain and South Africa as an ‘adults only’ exhibit, with a money-back guarantee if it wasn’t “the most shocking thing you’ve ever seen”.
When Epstein died in 1959, Jacob and the Angel was being displayed in the basement of Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks in Blackpool. Jacob and the Angel was eventually acquired by Granada Television and, for many years, loaned to Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral, and the University of Liverpool. The sculpture was shown at Tate Liverpool in its opening year (1988), and was purchased by Tate for the nation in 1996. Since then it has become one of the most popular works in the Tate Collection. The presence of the work at Tate Liverpool marks its triumphant return to the city.
Jacob Epstein (1880-1959) was born in New York and moved to London in 1905. His sculpture The Spirit of Liverpool Resurgent, adorns Lewis’s department store in Liverpool, and was unveiled in 1956.
DLA Piper Series: This is Sculpture takes an ambitious and revolutionary look at modern and contemporary sculpture. This new collection display continues to examine and question the trajectory of artistic innovation in twentieth-century art and beyond. In addition, key figures from the cultural arena have been invited to co-curate and present selected sections of the display. DLA Piper Series: This is Sculpture will feature masterpieces from the Tate Collection by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore, Salvador Dalí, Gilbert & George and Sarah Lucas.