Jacques Lipchitz

Reclining Woman


Not on display

Jacques Lipchitz 1891–1973
Original title
Femme allongée
Object: 76 × 108 × 38 mm
Presented by the Lipchitz Foundation 1982

Display caption

The origins of this small sculpture lie in a commission Lipchitz received from the designer Coco Chanel for a pair of firedogs for a rococo-style fireplace. He designed each of the firedogs in the form of a reclining woman, composed from figure-of-eight curves. Chanel then commissioned him to make a sculpture for her garden, for which this is a study. The garden sculpture was never completed, but the study, which drew on the earlier work, was an important new departure for Lipchitz in its curvilinear shapes and its subject of a reclining woman. It is also one of the first hand-sized modelled maquettes made by the artist.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

T03520 Reclining Woman 1921

Plaster, coated with shellac 3 × 4 1/4 × 1 1/2 (76 × 108 × 38)
Inscribed with illegible number in brown paint under base
Presented by the Lipchitz Foundation 1982
Lit: Lipchitz 1972, p.67 and repr.fig.51 (bronze); Stott 1975, p.259 no.68 and repr. fig.45 (bronze); Arnason 1969, repr.pl.6 (bronze)

There are two very similar versions of this ‘Reclining Woman’ of 1921, of which this is the slightly larger. It is the earliest in the Tate Gallery's collection of the small maquettes which Lipchitz had cast in bronze at the Modern Art Foundry in New York in the early 1960s (apart from the cubist ‘Figure 1915’ (T03501)), and exhibited together at the Otto Gerson Gallery (157 Small Bronze Sketches, April–May 1963). Nearly all of these were cast then for the first time, and the shellac surfaces of the plasters were cleaned and prepared both before and after this casting. T03520 is presumably an original cast of 1921.

The origin of this almost abstract figure is explained by Lipchitz in his autobiography. Coco Chanel commissioned from him, in addition to a portrait head, a pair of firedogs for a rococo style fireplace.

I realized that I must change my entire approach for this commission, and the experiment in curvilinear forms was to have a most profound effect on my sculpture of the next decades (Lipchitz, loc.cit.).

Each firedog took the form of a reclining woman, formed from figure of eight curves. This piece of decorative art immediately influenced a further commission from Coco Chanel for a sculpture for her garden. The plaster ‘Reclining Figure’ is a study for this, in which the shape of the figure on the firedog has become a spiral. The garden sculpture was never made, but this study was an important departure for Lipchitz both in its subject of a reclining woman and its treatment, and as one of the first of his hand size modelled maquettes.

[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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