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Gaston Lachaise (1882-1935)
Gaston Lachaise (1882-1935)

Flying Figures (Two Floating Nude Acrobats) [LF 30]

Gaston Lachaise (1882-1935)
Flying Figures (Two Floating Nude Acrobats) [LF 30]
polished bronze
11 ½ in. (29.2 cm.) high on a 3 5/8 in. (9.2 cm.) wood base
Modeled in 1921; cast by March 1935.
Private collection, New Jersey, by about 1938.
By descent to the late owner.
Bourgeois Galleries, Exhibition of Sculpture and Drawings by Gaston Lachaise, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1918, nos. 21, 25, other examples of the individual figures (listed as Summer Clouds and Flying Figure).
H.A. Read, “A New Sculptor of Merit,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 17, 1918, sect. 3, p. 6, another example of Summer Clouds referenced.
A.E. Gallatin, Gaston Lachaise: Sixteen Reproductions in Collotype of the Sculptor's Work, New York, 1924, p. 21, an unidentified example.
“Recent Exhibitions of Modern Sculpture," Junior League Magazine, vol. XV, no. 10, July 1929, p. 29, an unidentified example illustrated.
A.C. Ritchie, Sculpture of the Twentieth Century, New York, 1952, pp. 20, 102, illustrated.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gaston Lachaise, 18821935: Sculpture and Drawings, exhibition catalogue, Los Angeles, California, 1963, n.p., no., 30, another example illustrated.
H. Kramer, The Sculpture of Gaston Lachaise, New York, 1967, p. 48, figs. 28-29, illustrated.
D.B. Goodall, Gaston Lachaise: Sculptor, Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1969, vol. 1, pp. 85, 232, 256n86, 310, 402n9, 465-68, 546n. 72; vol. 2, pp. 213-16, 476, pl. C, illustrated, pl. CI, another example illustrated.
G. Nordland, Gaston Lachaise: The Man and His Work, New York, 1974, pp. 128-29, fig. 65, illustrated.
P. Sims, Gaston Lachaise: A Concentration of Works from the Permanent Collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art: A 50th Anniversary Exhibition, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1980, pp. 16-17, illustrated.
B. Robertson, et al., Twentieth-Century American Art: The Ebsworth Collection, Washington, D.C., 1999, pp. 162-64, 289, no. 37, another example illustrated.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and elsewhere, Sculpture of the Twentieth Century, October 10, 1952-September 7, 1953, p. 43, no. 50.
Palm Springs, California, Palm Springs Desert Museum, Gaston Lachaise: 100th Anniversary Exhibition, November 18-December 19, 1982, pp. 21, 33, 43, no. 22, another example illustrated as no. 21.

Brought to you by

Elizabeth Beaman
Elizabeth Beaman

Lot Essay

Perennially interested in the subject of the buoyant female nude as an expression of fundamental force, Gaston Lachaise essayed the theme in Flying Figures in 1921 by combining two early sculptures of levitating nudes first exhibited individually in 1918--as Summer Clouds and Flying Figure--in his show at the Bourgeois Galleries, New York. By 1925 two bronze casts of Flying Figures had been produced, and a third may have been made by the end of that decade. In 1929 an example appeared at the E.M. Rehn Galleries, New York, and in 1930 Lachaise sold the right to cast three bronze groups to Erhard Weyhe, owner of the Weyhe Gallery, also in New York. By March 1935 those bronzes had been completed and, not yet attached to their bases, were stored in the cellar of Lachaise’s Washington Mews studio (just north of Washington Square in New York City). At the time of Lachaise’s sudden death in October 1935, several weeks after his eviction from the studio for failure to pay the rent, those casts had not been delivered to Weyhe, and there is no word of the outcome.

In the years after Lachaise’s death, three casts, including the present example, have been identified. What appears to be the earliest of these was once owned by actor-collector Vincent Price (1911-1993) and his second wife, Mary Grant Price (1917-2002), and is now owned by a private collection, Seattle, Washington. The Prices’ cast rested on a stepped base--certainly Lachaise’s--when it was exhibited in Los Angeles in 1963 (Gaston Lachaise, 18821935: Sculpture and Drawings, n.p., no. 30), and it was subsequently remounted on a different base. How the Prices came to acquire the work is unknown. A second cast, featuring a more dynamic combination of the figures similar to that of the present example, was consigned by Lachaise’s widow, Isabel Dutaud Nagle (1872-1957), to the Kraushaar Galleries, New York City, and acquired in 1943 by collector Oliver Burr James (1896-1955); it has been unlocated since 1980. As indicated in a note written by Isabel in or about 1938, the present cast of soaring nudes had already been purchased by the original owner (who both knew Lachaise and possessed several other works by him).

Bronze casts of each of the individual figures also exist. A cast of the billowy nude exhibited in 1918 as Summer Clouds was purchased from Lachaise in 1931 by Margaret LaFarge Osborn (1867-1956), and now belongs to the Lachaise Foundation, Boston, Massachusetts (illustrated in the Salander O'Reilly Galleries’ exhibition catalogue Gaston Lachaise: Sculpture and Drawings, New York, 1998, n.p., no. 16). A cast of the more completely outstretched figure was acquired by about 1938 by Dr. Marynia F. Farnham (1899-1979), whose husband Charles Nison (1889-1945) had befriended Lachaise some nine or more years earlier; the cast is now in the collection of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum (formerly Kresge Art Museum), Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan (illustrated in Selections from the Kresge Art Museum Collection VIII: Art in Motion, East Lansing, Michigan, 2002, n.p.). The plaster model for the first of these two casts was damaged by about 1938 and is currently owned by the Lachaise Foundation; the model for the second was already lost by about 1938. The identification number LF 30 has been assigned by the Lachaise Foundation to Flying Figures (sometimes called Two Floating Nude Acrobats).

We are grateful to Virginia Budny for her assistance in preparing the catalogue entry for this work.

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