Jacques Lipchitz

Sketch for ‘Our Tree of Life’


Not on display

Jacques Lipchitz 1891–1973
Object: 825 × 470 × 290 mm
Presented by the Lipchitz Foundation 1982

Display caption

Having worked on a massive sculpture of the Virgin Mary in France, Lipchitz conceived the idea of a parallel monument to the development of Judaism, his own faith. This study for the sculpture is in the form of an ancestral tree. At its base is Abraham, surmounted by the three Patriarchs. Moses surrounded by the burning bush forms the upper part, with a phoenix rising above.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Technique and condition

A one part cast plaster sculpture, comprising a tableau with integral base.

The plaster cast has the appearance and surface texture of the original clay master, where the artist used small balls of clay, pressed and modelled by hand and worked with tools, to build up to the desired shape. The sculpture was cast in two parts and re-bounded with fresh plaster. It is probable that concealed wood or wire reinforcements were inserted (this will only be confirmed by x-ray examination), to support the top heavy structure, on its shallow, stepped, rectangular plaster base.

On acquisition a few small chips were visible in the plaster, on the frame held by one acrobat’s right arm. There are also small chips on the under edge of the rectangular base. Small deposits of ingrained dust and dirt remain in some crevices trapped below the shellac coating. It is known that a wax mould was taken from this plaster, slightly altered and re-cast as T03525. To prevent the moulding material from damaging the surface of the plaster during this recasting process, a shellac isolation layer was applied. Over time this has aged to an uneven brown colour.

There is no artists inscription.

The sculpture is displayed under a Perspex cover. The rectangular base is secured with two small L shaped brass pins inserted into the plinth top.

Sandra Deighton
September 2005

Catalogue entry

T03491 Sketch for Our Tree of Life 1962

Plaster, coated with shellac and pigment 32 1/2 × 10 × 10 1/2 (825 × 254 × 267)
Not inscribed
Presented by the Lipchitz Foundation 1982
Lit: Lipchitz 1972, pp.198–9; the Jacques Lipchitz ‘tree of life’, Hadassah University Hospital, Jerusalem, n.d.

See entry on T03525. A mould has been taken from T03491, but no bronze cast has been illustrated. The plaster itself was cast in two pieces, and repaired with fresh plaster at the joins. It differs only in detail from the complete sculpture of T03525.

[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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