Jacques Lipchitz

Portrait of Gertrude Stein


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Not on display

Jacques Lipchitz 1891–1973
Original title
Portrait de Gertrude Stein
Terracotta and pigment
Object: 305 × 259 × 203 mm
Presented by the Lipchitz Foundation 1982

Catalogue entry

T03479 Portrait of Gertrude Stein 1938

Terracotta and pigment 12 × 10 × 8 (305 × 259 × 203)
Inscribed ‘J Lipchitz’ on back of neck
Presented by the Lipchitz Foundation 1982
Lit: Bert van Bork, Jacques Lipchitz, The Artist at Work, 1966, p.129 (bronze); Arnason 1969, repr. 124 (bronze); Lipchitz 1972, pp.63 and 140, repr. 127 (bronze)

Lipchitz made portrait heads of Gertrude Stein on two occasions, first in 1920–1 and again in 1938. The plaster of the earlier head is in the collection of the Kröller-Müller Museum (Otterlo, 1977, repr., n.p.). In 1938 he made two similar terracottas of the same size, again of the head alone, the Tate Gallery's and another now in the collection of the University of Arizona Museum of Art (Arizona, 1982, no.44).

A number of years later, in 1938, I met Gertrude after a long interval and found that she had lost a great deal of weight. She looked now like a shrivelled old rabbi, with a little rabbi's cap on her head. I was so struck by the contrast that I asked if I could make another portrait of her. I made two different sketches, one with the cap and one without. She preferred the one without the cap, perhaps because it looked more feminine, but I liked the other one better. I did not carry the second portrait beyond the sketch stage because of the interruption of the Second World War, although I made a variant of it for a university in Houston, Texas, I think after that war. I liked these later sketches very much, particularly that with the cap. They have a strongly lifelike appeal. The massive, self-confident Buddha has become a tired and rather tragic old woman (Lipchitz, loc.cit.).

This portrait was not a commission, and Lipchitz had made few portraits since the early 1920s, apart from the imaginary head of Géricault. It anticipates the style of the realistic heads of artists and patrons which Lipchitz began in New York in 1942.

The terracotta has been prepared for display, with white colour brushed into the crevices of the surface. There is a repair in plaster over the figure's right ear.

[For T03397 and T03479 to T03534 the foundry inscriptions, and reproductions of casts in other materials in the books listed below, are recorded. Abbreviations used:

Arnason 1969 H.H. Arnason, Jacques Lipchitz: Sketches in Bronze, 1969

Lipchitz 1972 Jacques Lipchitz, My Life in Sculpture, 1972

Stott 1975 Deborah A. Stott, Jacques Lipchitz and Cubism, 1975 (reprinted 1978)

Otterlo 1977 A.M. Hammacher, Lipchitz in Otterlo, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, 1977

Centre Pompidou 1978 Nicole Barbier, Lipchitz: oeuvres de Jacques Lipchitz (1891–1973) dans les collections du Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, 1978

Arizona 1982 Jacques Lipchitz. Sketches and Models in the collection of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson, Arizona. Introduction and catalogue by Peter Bermingham, 1982]

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986

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