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signed, numbered, stamped with foundry mark and marked with thumbprint ‘JLipchitz 4/7 MODERN ART FDRY. N.Y.’ (on the back of the base)
bronze with black patina
Height: 83 in. (210.8 cm.)
Conceived in 1926-1930; this bronze version cast by 1961
Otto Gerson Gallery, Inc., New York.
Private collection (acquired from the above, October 1961); sale, Christie’s, New York, 14 November 1989, lot 70.
Marlborough Gallery, Inc., New York (acquired at the above sale).
Acquired by the late owner, 1999.
M. Raynal, Jacques Lipchitz, Paris, 1947, p. 16 (another cast illustrated in situ at the Museum of Modern Art, New York).
A.C. Ritchie, Sculpture of the Twentieth Century, New York, 1952, p. 140 (another cast illustrated in situ at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, p. 141).
A.H. Barr, ed., Masters of Modern Art, New York, 1958, p. 86 (another cast illustrated in situ at the Museum of Modern Art, New York).
R. Goldwater, Lipchitz, New York, 1959, no. 14 (another cast illustrated in situ at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; titled Figures).
A.M. Hammacher, Jacques Lipchitz, His Sculpture, New York, 1960, pp. 46-47 and 173 (another cast illustrated on the cover; another cast illustrated again in situ at the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, pls. 45-46).
Fifty Years of Lipchitz Sculpture, exh. cat., Otto Gerson Gallery, Inc., New York, 1961, p. 26 (illustrated).
H.H. Arnason, Jacques Lipchitz: Sketches in Bronze, New York, 1969, p. 9 (another cast illustrated in situ at the artist's home, Hastings-on-Hudson, p. 9, fig. 3).
J. Lipchitz and H.H. Arnason, My Life in Sculpture, London, 1972, pp. 89-91, no. 75 (another cast illustrated in situ at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, p. 91).
T. Vischer, Skulptur im 20. Jahrhundert, Basel, 1984, pp. 104 and 226, no. 112 (another cast illustrated in situ at the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, p. 105).
A.G. Wilkinson, “Paris and London: Modigliani, Lipchitz, Epstein and Gaudier-Brzeska” in Primitivism in 20th Century Art, New York, 1984, vol. II, p. 429 (another cast illustrated in color in situ at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, p. 428).
A.G. Wilkinson, The Sculpture of Jacques Lipchitz: A Catalogue Raisonné, London, 1996, vol. I, pp. 77 and 189, no. 206 (another cast illustrated, pp. 77 and 189).
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Max Carter
Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas

Lot Essay

Standing at over two meters high, Figure demonstrates Jacques Lipchitz’s distinctive form of cubist sculpture at the height of his career. Totemic, this work balances abstraction and representation, and stands both as a bold summation of the artist’s work up until this point as well as marking the beginning of his embrace of working on a monumental scale. Another cast resides today in The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Lipchitz spent the summer of 1926 in Ploumanach, on the Brittany coast. There, he became intrigued by the natural formations of the coastline—particularly the rocks as they descended into the sea. These dramatic natural surroundings, coupled with a moment of reflection for the artist, resulted in the creation of Figure.
Lipchitz vividly described the conception of this work: “I was, half unconsciously, working out the various ideas that had been coming together during the previous several years.” In the first “sketch” or maquette he made, he inserted a reclining figure in the top, ovoid portion of the figure, “but I must have begun to see this as a primitive totem, for in the next sketch I transformed the upper part into a head with an indication of staring eyes. This was the genesis of the great Figure…a work that summarized many of my ideas dating back to 1915. Specifically, it pulled together those different directions of massive, material frontality and of aerial openness in which I had been working during the 1920s. It is also very clearly a subject sculpture, an image with a specific and rather frightening personality. Although the Figure has been associated with African sculpture and the resemblance is apparent, it is now evident to me that it emerged, step by step, from findings I made in my cubist and protocubist sculpture over the previous fifteen years… From this point forward, I think I began to be concerned more explicitly with this question of monumentality in my sculpture and look at my maquettes with new eyes” (My Life in Sculpture, London, 1972, pp. 89-90).
This abstract figure shows how Lipchitz had harnessed negative space as an active component of his work at this time. Lipchitz had first developed this innovative and bold concept in 1925, the year before he conceived the present Figure. In works known as “transparents,” Lipchitz 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” (ibid., p. 86).

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