Not on display

Jean Robert Ipoustéguy 1920–2006
Original title
La Terre
Object: 1880 × 686 × 540 mm, 180 kg
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1964

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Ipousteguy trained as a painter and made stained glass windows, but in 1949 he turned exclusively to sculpture. His sculptures were at first abstract and geometric but around 1955 his forms became lumpier and more related to the human figure. 'Earth' was Ipousteguy's first life-size sculpture of a human figure, and it was followed in 1963 by another, entitled 'Man'. Ipousteguy wrote of 'Earth': 'this sculpture is limited to a torso and the face is hidden under the facets of a helmet .... although Earth has two legs, her arms are not completely detached from her body. One has to wait for Man in 1963 for the limbs to separate and spread out.'

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Jean Ipousteguy born 1920

T00681 La Terre (Earth) 1962

Inscribed 'IPOUSTEGUY 1962' and 'Susse Fondeur Paris' on back of base
Bronze, 74 5/8 x 25 5/8 x 16 3/4 (189.5 x 65 x 42.5) including base
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1964
Prov: With Hanover Gallery, London (purchased from the artist through the Galerie Claude Bernard, Paris); the Friends of the Tate Gallery
Exh: Painting and Sculpture of a Decade 1954-64, Tate Gallery, April-June 1964 (229, repr.); Ipousteguy, Hanover Gallery, London, July-August 1964 (5, repr.)
Lit: Eugen Thiemann, 'Jean Ipousteguy' in Kunstwerk, XVIII, July-September 1964, p.50, repr. p.55
Repr: Studio International, CLXIX, 1965, p.203

This sculpture, Ipousteguy's first life-size figure, represented a breakthrough in his work and was followed by another figure of about the same size, 'Man' 1963, a striding male nude with arms outstretched, which is to some extent its male counterpart. 'Man' has the peculiarity of having two left legs, one behind the other.

Asked to comment on the Tate's sculpture and its relationship to the rest of his oeuvre, the artist wrote (letter of 23 November 1965): 'I find it difficult to reply to your request. I believe that this sculpture "Earth" is subject to the fate of every creation with regard to its creator: profoundly legitimate during its elaboration it ends by taking on an ever greater autonomy with the passing of time. Today I find it difficult to recall the forces motivating its existence.

'I think, nevertheless, that having perfected a repertoire of forms whose origin was above all architectural, I attempted to adapt them to a human figuration. It was at that time the only problem of deep interest to me. Moreover I am coming increasingly to believe that all my work up to 1959 would have been impossible, but for the prospect of having one day to work along these lines. Indeed, as early as 1959 I achieved a first mutation of these forms, which for me are primordial, in the "David and Goliath".

'But this sculpture as you know is limited to a torso and the face is hidden under the facets of a helmet. Sculpturally speaking the Brancusi egg has broken to reveal the human embryo. The progress of this conquest of figuration may very logically be followed by remarking that although "Earth" (1962) has two legs, her arms are not completely detached from her body. One has to wait for "Man" in 1963 for all the limbs to separate and spread out - and perhaps as a result of my joy at having realised my goal another leg has been added as well'.

This cast is the third of an edition of six. The first belongs to the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC.

Published in:
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.369, reproduced p.369

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