The Archipenko Foundation intends to list this work in their proposed Archipenko catalogue raisonné.
Alexander Archipenko was among the most innovative and creative sculptors of the 20th century. Not only did he advance the cubist approach pioneered by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris, but he was a leading exponent of a new modern style that redefined the viewer's conception of three-dimensional space. The apex of his inventiveness is discernable in his works from 1913-1915, when he produced his most renowned sculptures, such as Carrousel Pierrot, Médrano II, Boxers and Woman Combing Her Hair.
Archipenko rejected the traditionally held view that space was akin to a frame around the mass of an object. Looking back on this revolutionary phase in his work, Archipenko wrote, "In the year 1912, parallel to the modulation of space, I conceived the way to enrich form by introducing significant modulation of the concave. The modulation of the concave, its outlines and whole patterns become an integral part, symbolically as important as the pattern of elevations. This method I applied to reliefs and three-dimensional figures. As the result of many experiments, I obtained an entirely new and original type of sculpture with new esthetic, optical and spiritual expressions. The combining of positive and negative forms evolved into a new modern style" (A. Archipenko, op. cit., p. 52).
In transforming the cubist structure of his previous sculptures, Archipenko drew heavily on primitive sources such as Byzantine and Egyptian art as well as Russian mosaics. He admired their use of color as well as their expression of ideal forms, such as the eternal female. By taking a form that was universal and exposing it from the inside, Archipenko was able to create a new awareness of the figure. Donald Karshan states that one of Archipenko's greatest innovations was "the formal use of concaves (negative space), to imply by their anatomical locations and/or, by reflectivity, the rational convex areas of the figure represented, thereby intensifying awareness and symbolization of these elements in their very absence." (D.H. Karshan, op. cit., 1974, p. 39). In Woman Combing Her Hair it is the push and pull of the concave forms--the arm raised in gesture creating a void which is echoed by the lack of gesture or arm on the opposite side--that creates movement and dynamism.
According to Karshan three bronze editions were established by the artist in the 1950s: the first, 13¾ in. (35 cm.) in height; the second, 25 in. (63.5 cm.) in height, and the third, 71 in. (180.3 cm.) in height. The work was conceived in 1914, which is the date Archipenko gave to a bronze example he included in his one-man exhibition at The Anderson Galleries, New York, in 1928. Archipenko may have inadvertently misdated all later casts and larger-scaled versions as 1915.
The original plaster of the present work is housed at the Saarbrucken Museum, Germany. Other bronze versions of Woman Combing her Hair are in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York and the National Gallery, Washington D.C. The following bronze is a lifetime cast and, as the Archipenko Foundation has noted, the spelling of the name "Arhipenko" is atypical.