Not on display
This marble bust by the British sculptor Jacob Epstein dates from 1910 and depicts Mrs Emily Chadbourne, a Chicago art collector, who had a house in London’s Mayfair and was a major lender to Roger Fry’s exhibition Manet and the Post-Impressionists at the Grafton Galleries in 1910–11. Epstein used the conventions of the Renaissance portrait bust to depict the sitter, as he also did in his portrait bronzes of this period such as Euphemia Lamb 1908 (Tate N03187) and Mrs Mary McEvoy 1909 (Tate N06139). The marble version of the latter work, Mrs Ambrose McEvoy 1909 (Johannesburg Art Gallery), is the only other carved portrait bust by Epstein before he began to create portraits exclusively in bronze. According to the historian Richard Buckle: ‘He decided early on that the subtleties of surface which reveal character were rendered better in clay and that marble should be kept for ideal and monumental work’ (Buckle 1963, p.56). The face of Mrs Chadbourne is carved in simplified smooth planes which the collector Edward Schinman described as characteristic of Epstein’s early carvings in marble and attributed to the hardness of the material (Schinman and Schinman 1970, p.87).
The work also relates stylistically to Epstein’s most significant monumental carved work in this naturalistic style, the series of sculptures he made for the British Medical Association (BMA) building in London in 1907–8, now extant only in fragments. A comparison with photographs of the BMA figures soon after completion shows that the heads, for instance that of the woman in New-Born, have a similar simplification and stylisation of features to that seen in the bust of Mrs Chadbourne (Silber 1986, pp.122–4). The work was made in the same year as the monumental stone carving Sun God (Tate L02237) and demonstrates how Epstein worked simultaneously on figurative and more abstract work throughout his career. He was as much interested in formal qualities as in conveying personality in his naturalistic work, and saw it as a means of exploring the same concerns as he did in his primitivist and abstract carvings of the same period. He exhibited a carved portrait bust (probably this work since Mrs Ambrose McEvoy was acquired by Johannesburg Art Gallery directly from the AAA exhibition of July 1910 in London) alongside two other earlier carvings, Fountain Figure (Euphemia Lamb) 1908–10 (Musée d’Art Moderne, Geneva) and Rom – Second Version 1909–10 (National Museums and Galleries of Wales, Cardiff), at the Grafton Galleries, London, indicating that he saw the carved portrait bust as embodying an important aspect of his practice at this time in his early explorations of direct carving. Responding to the three works by Epstein in this exhibition, the historian C. Lewis Hind described how in ‘the portrait head of a living woman, there is something more than mere craftsmanship; the material is respected; it is a joy to trace the trail of the life-communicating chisel.’ (C. Lewis Hind, The Post-Impressionists, London 1911, p.66.)
It is not currently known whether the work was a commission or if it was ever in the possession of the sitter. Emily Chadbourne may have met Epstein through Lady Ottoline Morrell (1873–1938), whose social circle she was part of from 1909 (Robert S. Nelson, ‘The Art Collection of Emily Crane Chadbourne and the Absence of Byzantine Art in Chicago’, in Christina Nielsen [ed.], To Inspire and Instruct: A History of Medieval Art in Midwestern Museums, Newcastle-on-Tyne 2008, p.134). Morrell had commissioned the carving Fountain Figure (Euphemia) from Epstein in 1908. However, the work was with the Epstein Estate in 1961 before passing into the possession of the important Epstein collector Edward P. Schinman.
Richard Buckle, Jacob Epstein Sculptor, London 1963, p.56.
Edward P. Schinman and Barbara Ann Schinman, A Catalogue of the Collection of Edward P. Schinman, Cranbury, New Jersey 1970, p.87.
Evelyn Silber, The Sculpture of Epstein with a Complete Catalogue, Oxford 1986, cat.no.22, p.126.
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