Jacques Lipchitz


1915, later cast

Not on display

Jacques Lipchitz 1891–1973
Original title
Bronze on wooden base
Object: 710 × 262 × 215 mm checked
Purchased 1959

Display caption

Lipchitz stated that this work represented ‘a human head with even a feeling of monumental dignity. Yet the entire effect is achieved essentially by two interlocking sculptural planes.’ He regarded it as the first Cubist sculpture in which he successfully retained a sense of organic life, and wrote that it was ‘my most non-realistic work to that time but was still strongly rooted in nature... From this point I was able to create Cubist sculpture with a confidence and understanding of what I was doing’.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Jacques Lipchitz 1891-1973

T00310 Tête (Head) 1915

Inscribed 'J Lipchitz | 3/7' low down, together with the artist's thumb print
Bronze,24 x 8 1/4 x 7 1/4 (61 x 21 x 18.5)on wooden base; height including base 28 (71)
Purchased from the artist through Fine Arts Associates, New York (Grant-in-Aid) 1959
Exh: Jacques Lipchitz, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, March-May 1958 (13, repr.); Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, May-July 1958 (13, repr.); Kunsthalle, Basle, August-September 1958 (13, repr.); Städtische Galerie, Munich, September-October 1958 (13, repr.); Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund, November-December 1958 (13, repr.); Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, January-February 1959 (13, repr.); Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, May-June 1959 (13, repr.); Tate Gallery, November-December 1959 (12, repr.); Pioneers of Modern Sculpture, Hayward Gallery, London, July-September 1973 (132, repr.)
Lit: Irene Patai, Encounters: the Life of Jacques Lipchitz (New York 1961), pp.159-61; Bert Van Bork, Jacques Lipchitz: the Artist at Work (New York 1966), pp.28, 31, 116, wax version repr. pp.116, 117, 119; Jacques Lipchitz with H.H. Arnason, My Life in Sculpture (New York 1972), pp.20, 23, 33-4, repr. fig.25
Repr: A.M. Hammacher, Jacques Lipchitz: his Sculpture (London 1961), pl.21 and fig.26

Lipchitz regarded this sculpture as a turning-point in his work. He told H.H. Arnason (op. cit.) that in the earlier part of 1915 he had been deeply involved with Cubist sculpture but was still in some ways uncertain of what he was doing. Then one day he was visited by the writer Jules Romains, who asked him what he was trying to do. Lipchitz answered, 'I should like to make an art as pure as crystal'. Jules Romains replied in a slightly mocking way, 'What do you know about crystals?' At first Lipchitz was upset by this remark, but on reflection he realised that he knew nothing about crystals except that they were forms which were inorganic and this was not what he wanted to make. 'In my cubist sculpture I always wanted to retain the sense of organic life, of humanity. It was as a result of this encounter that I made the Head, about 1915, which was my most nonrealistic work to that time but was still strongly rooted in nature ... From this point I was able to create cubist sculpture with a confidence and understanding of what I was doing ...

'Of the greatest importance in clarifying my ideas about subject and form in 1915 was the Head ... It is really a very simple structure, obviously in the same vein as the abstract architectural works that preceded and followed it. There is a large, vertical-rectangular mass that rises up the back of the head and then comes down in front as the forehead and nose. This rectangular plane is bisected almost at right angles by another plane that suggests the face diminishing at the bottom to form the neck and rising in a frontal curve to suggest the protruding line of the eyebrows. There is even an implication of the eyes in the shadows created under this protruding ridge. This is, then, clearly, a human head with even a feeling of monumental dignity. Yet the entire effect is achieved essentially by two interlocking sculptural planes.'

Lipchitz wrote to the compiler on 13 May 1969 that 'The "Head" 1915 as well as "Reclining Woman with Guitar" was first made in clay, then in plaster and cast by the "lost wax" process. The waxes were retouched by me'. This was the third of an edition of seven bronze casts and was probably made in the USA, at the Modern Art Foundry in Long Island City, New York. Bert Van Bork, op. cit., reproduces photographs of Lipchitz working on a wax of this head in his foundry-studio there. As a result of this practice, the surface of each cast is slightly different.

A version in stone, probably made by a professional stonecutter but finished by the artist, is reproduced in Maurice Raynal, Jacques Lipchitz (Paris 1947), n.p. The original plaster is now in the Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris.

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, pp.448-9, reproduced p.448

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