Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973)
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Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973)

Femme couchée à la guitare

Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973)
Femme couchée à la guitare
signed and stamped with the foundry mark ‘J Lipchitz C. VALSUANI CIRE PERDUE’ (on the back of the base)
Length: 29 ¾ in. (75.6 cm.)
Width: 12 ¾ in. (32.4 cm.)
Height: 15 ¾ in. (40 cm.)
Conceived in 1928 and cast in the artist’s lifetime
Gustave Van Geluwe, Brussels, by whom acquired before 1956, and thence by descent.
M. Raynal, Jacques Lipchitz, Paris, 1947 (basalt version illustrated).
A.C. Ritchie, Sculpture of the Twentieth Century, New York, 1952, p. 229 (basalt version illustrated p. 140).
A.M. Hammacher, Jacques Lipchitz: His Sculpture, New York, 1960, no. 44, p. 174 (basalt version illustrated).
R. Goldwater, What is Modern Sculpture?, New York, 1969, pp. 20 &144 (limestone version illustrated p. 21).
J. Lipchitz & H.H. Arnason, My Life in Sculpture, New York, 1972, p. 103 (basalt version illustrated fig. 83).
A.M. Hammacher, Jacques Lipchitz: His Sculpture, New York, 1975, p. 173 (stone version illustrated pl. 44).
A.E. Elsen, Unknown Beings and Other Realities, New York, 1979, p. 31 (bronze version illustrated).
A.G. Wilkinson, The Sculpture of Jacques Lipchitz, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. I, The Paris Years 1910-1940, London, 1996, no. 215, p. 221 (bronze version illustrated p. 80).
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, L’art contemporain d’Anvers, June - September 1935.
Antwerp, Musée Royal des Beaux-Arts, Cinquantenaire de l’Art Contemporain, 1955, no. 180.
Verviers, Société Royale des Beaux-Arts, L’Exposition de la Collection G. Van Geluwe, March - September 1956, no. 62 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Dusseldorf, Kunstverein; Otterlo, Kröller-Müller Museum; Oostende, Kursaal; and Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten.
Charleroi, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Nouvelle selection de la collection Van Geluwe, January - February 1959.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Anna Povejsilova
Anna Povejsilova

Lot Essay

Conceived in 1928, Femme couchée à la guitare is a one of a series of reclining figures in which Lipchitz pierced solid form, integrating voids and empty space into his sculpture. Lipchitz considered Femme couchée à la guitare one of the most important pieces that he made in this year and he would continue to experiment with the horizontal form in a series of embracing couples and reclining figures in the following decade of his career. With a sense of clarity and visual harmony, Femme couchée à la guitare consists of a series of abstract patterns and curving anthropomorphic lines, demonstrating the artist’s ability at imbuing his cubist vocabulary with a sense of human vitality. Cast in lead, a rarely used material in Lipchitz’s oeuvre, the surface of Femme couchée à la guitare has a soft smoothness and warm patina heightening the elegant, undulating forms of the figure. 

The incorporation of empty space into his sculptural composition was an innovative and bold concept that Lipchitz had first developed in 1925. The artist created a number of works, called ‘transparents’, in which he made bronze casts of skeletal constructions made from wax and cardboard. Composed of delicate pieces of interlocking bronze parts, these sculptures create a bold juxtaposition between the solid forms and the open space that surrounds them, integrating voids into the sculptural composition itself. He recalled of his sculptural discovery, ‘Suddenly, I found myself playing with space, with a kind of open, lyrical construction that was a revelation to me. I felt as though I were discovering an entirely new concept of sculpture as space, of the ethereal soul of the sculpture rather than its physical corporeality’ (J. Lipchitz, My Life in Sculpture, London, 1973, p. 86).  

In Femme couchée à la guitare, the voids are as much a part of the sculpture as the solid lead, creating a harmonious interplay between mass and lightness. Lipchitz described the basalt version of Femme couchée à la guitare, ‘The work is massively conceived in curvilinear volumes, with a strong sense of frontality, but involving a movement in and out of depth. Thus, the lower, or right, leg is composed at a diagonal directing the eye through the space below the left leg. Similar planar diagonals under the head and the left arm emphasise the opening void’ (J. Lipchitz, ibid., p. 103). 

The woman with a guitar was a quintessential cubist subject, appearing particularly in the work of Picasso. In many of his cubist works, Picasso often conflated the form of the guitar with the curving body of a woman so that the instrument acts as a symbol of the female figure. In Femme couchée à la guitare, the guitar not only forms part of the woman’s torso, but the undulating shape of the instrument is echoed throughout the work; in Lipchitz’s words, ‘The subject is a reclining figure with a guitar; the curved shape of the right leg is also the shape of the guitar. This is again a total assimilation of the figure to the guitar-object’ (J. Lipchitz, ibid., p. 103). With the reduction and simplification of detail, the repeated visual forms of Femme couchée à la guitare create a lyrical harmony and visual poeticism that flows throughout this reclining figure.

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