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Artists Jacques Lipchitz
Jacques Lipchitz Photo

Jacques Lipchitz

Cubist sculptor

Movement: Cubism

Born: August 22, 1891 - Druskininkai, Lithuania

Died: May 16, 1973 - Capri, Italy

Jacques Lipchitz Timeline

Quotes

"Abstraction was never enough for me."
Jacques Lipchitz
"All my life as an artist I have asked myself: What pushes me continually to make sculpture? I have found the answer. art is an action against death. It is a denial of death."
Jacques Lipchitz
"I also found so-called great art too pompous, too stiff. What at this time was called minor art was freer, more imaginative, more open to all kinds of unorthodox expression, all kinds of daring in the handling of materials."
Jacques Lipchitz
"For me sculpture is divinity. This is the only answer that I could find for myself. Art is man's distinctly human way of fighting death. Through art, man achieves immortality and in this immortality we find God."
Jacques Lipchitz
"Cubism is not a formula, it is not a school. Cubism is a philosophy, a point of view in the universe. It is like standing at a certain point on a mountain and looking around. If you go higher, things will look different; if you go lower, again they will look different."
Jacques Lipchitz

"Copy nature and you infringe on the work of our Lord. Interpret nature and you are an artist."

Jacques Lipchitz Signature

Synopsis

Lithuanian and Jewish, the refugee artist Jacques Lipchitz arrived in Paris at precisely the right time: when the early-twentieth-century European avant-garde was shaking up the art world and Cubism was born. When we think of Cubist sculpture, the works of Lipchitz emerge as exemplars of the style translated into three dimensions. Later, the second time Lipchitz fled for his life at the beginning of WWII, he left behind a less abstract style and, in a major career-changing transformation, began producing larger-scale sculptures in bronze. Later still, the work of the ever-dynamic Lipchitz had become increasingly emotionally expressive, often incorporating themes from Judaism. At the end of his long lifetime and multinational trek, Lipchitz may be regarded as one of the foremost contributors to the Cubist style and to modern sculpture.

Key Ideas

Lipchitz and fellow sculptor, Alexander Archipenko, succeeded where Cubist painters had achieved only moderate success - he transformed Cubist themes into sculptural works that display a sense of refinement and cohesion. Of the two artists, the works of Lipchitz were less abstract and rarely incorporated bright colors.
The works that Lipchitz referred to as "transparents" were given that name because they were pierced by abundant negative space. Basically, you could see right through them, or through parts of them. He used this strategy to promote the sculptures' interaction with their surroundings. They were frequently displayed outdoors, so the landscape became an important component of a work.
Lipchitz early, classical training and adept draftsmanship are evident in the emotionally charged, large bronze pieces he began producing later in his career. Themes deriving from Biblical tales and Greek mythology called for a more curvilinear and naturalistic style. Sweeping lines and variations in depth belie the influence of Cubism but the large, dramatic pieces that are made even more powerful by nature of their size as if to evoke the magnitude of the horrors of World War II.

Most Important Art

Jacques Lipchitz Famous Art

Pregnant Woman (1912)

This early work by Lipchitz demonstrates both his traditional artistic training and the incipient signs of his transition away from art school orthodoxy. Lipchitz received a thorough education in traditional sculptural processes, from drawing classical works to mocking up compositions in clay, to creating full plaster models. Most classically trained artists would give their models to a craftsman to carve in stone or cast in bronze. However, Lipchitz' Pregnant Woman remains in its plaster stage and has been treated as a finished work.

Although it is technically skilled, this work is very unlike the classical sculptures Lipchitz would have studied. Instead, it shows the influence of alternative types of sculpture such as medieval pieces or works from the African continent that, at the time, were being brought to Europe and characterized as "primitive". The figure's flat facial features and the unusual position of her arms, along with her designation as a pregnant woman, all point to an anti-classicizing tendency. This is indicative of Lipchitz' increasing regard for the work of contemporaneous, avant-garde artists in Paris who were predominantly interested in works of art from outside the classical canon.
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Jacques Lipchitz Artworks in Focus:

Biography

Childhood

Jacques Lipchitz was born Chaim Jacob Lipschitz to a Jewish family in Druskininkai, a small town in the former Russian empire (modern-day Lithuania). His father, Abraham Lipchitz, a building contractor, was rarely home, leaving the rearing of Lipchitz largely to his mother Rachel. In keeping with his father's wishes, Lipchitz began studying engineering. It was thanks to his mother's encouragement, however, that the young Lipchitz at age 17 gave up engineering and moved to Paris in 1908. Although his father was disappointed, Lipchitz later said that "after I went to Paris, my father forgave me and as long as he was able to, he contributed to my support."

Early Training

Lipchitz age 20

In Paris, Lipchitz adopted the French first name "Jacques" and enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux-Art as well as the forward thinking Academie Julian. He soon made contact with members of some of the most avant-garde artistic groups of the period, which were flourishing in Paris. The young emigre became friends with ground-breaking artists such as Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, and Diego Rivera. He later recounted anecdotes about the relationships between these figures and the influence they exerted on one another and their work. He recalls in particular one occasion when the artist Juan Gris told him "about a bunch of grapes he had seen in a painting by Picasso. The next day," recalled Lipchitz, "these grapes appeared in a painting by Gris, this time in a bowl; and the day after, the bowl appeared in a painting by Picasso."

Mature Period

Under the influence of Picasso and Alexander Archipenko in particular, Lipchitz began creating his first Cubist sculptures in 1913. This was a particularly formative phase for the sculptor, as it was for so many artists living in Paris at that time. He later claimed that "the period during the First World War was a very exciting time in Paris, with artists, philosophers, and poets continually discussing and arguing about the work with which they were involved."

In 1916, Lipchitz and his new wife Berthe, a Russian poet, sat for one of Modigliani's best-known portraits. The couple is depicted in their Paris apartment, which had formerly been the home of the sculptor Constantin Brancusi. Curator Neal Benezra notes that Lipchitz and Modigliani, although close friends, could not have been more different. "Lipchitz," explains Benezra, was "a model of artistic industry and traditional values" whereas Modigliani," he continues, "was the stereotypical peintre maudit ("cursed" or "doomed painter"), tragically doomed by his own vices."

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Jacques Lipchitz Biography Continues

Late Period

Jacques Lipchitz Photo (1935)

In 1925 Lipchitz became a French citizen, living and working on the outskirts of Paris in a house he commissioned from the radical Swiss-French, architect Le Corbusier (born Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris). During the 1930s, Lipchitz's work was exhibited internationally and he received the gold medal for sculpture at the 1937 Paris Exposition. However, when the Germans occupied Paris in 1940, the artist's Jewish heritage placed him in grave danger and he was forced to flee to the United States, taking up residence in New York City. He later said of this upheaval, "I had been forced to leave everything - my studio, my house, my collection - and I was reconciled to the idea that everything was lost or destroyed. I had begun a new life in the United States." The persecution of Jewish people by the Nazis caused Lipchitz to engage more actively in his religion and in his later years he sought the spiritual help of a Rabbi. Lipchitz eventually found some religious catharsis through the sculpture that he created in the 1940s.

When they visited Paris for an exhibition after World War II, his wife Berthe informed Lipchitz that she didn't wish to return to the USA. The couple was subsequently divorced and he continued to live in America, settling in Hastings-on-Hudson, a northern suburb of New York City. Soon after, he met and married Yulla Haberstadt, a sculptor from Berlin. In 1958, he suffered a major hemorrhage due to stomach cancer. Although he survived it, the illness comprised a significant setback for the artist. However, he continued to produce art until his death on the Italian island of Capri in 1973, where he had a villa and studio near a respected foundry. After his death his body was flown to Jerusalem for burial.


Legacy

Jacques Lipchitz Portrait

Lipchitz will be remembered for his achievements in the development of Cubism, particularly in his transformation of the formal characteristics of the style from painting into three-dimensional works. Along with Picasso, his work influenced many artists, including Henri Laurens and Umberto Boccioni, who was instrumental in developing Italian Futurist sculpture. Lipchitz' influence is particularly notable in the work of his student.

Influences and Connections

Influences on artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Influenced by artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Jacques Lipchitz
Interactive chart with Jacques Lipchitz's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
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View Influences Chart

Artists

Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso
Alexander ArchipenkoAlexander Archipenko
Juan GrisJuan Gris
Diego RiveraDiego Rivera

Friends

Amedeo ModiglianiAmedeo Modigliani
Juan GrisJuan Gris

Movements

CubismCubism
Jacques Lipchitz
Jacques Lipchitz
Years Worked: 1910s - 1960s

Artists

Henri LaurensHenri Laurens
Umberto BoccioniUmberto Boccioni

Friends

Movements

Modern SculptureModern Sculpture
CubismCubism

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Useful Resources on Jacques Lipchitz

Videos

Books

Websites

Articles

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.

biography

Jacques Lipchitz: His Sculpture

By A.M. Hammacher

Jacques Lipchitz: The First Cubist Sculptor

By Cathy Putz

Jacques Lipchitz: A Life in Sculpture Recomended resource

By Alan Wilkinson

More Interesting Books about Jacques Lipchitz
The Reach and Grasp of Jacques Lipchitz' Sculpture

By Michael Brenson
New York Times
January 18, 1991

How Jacques Lipchitz Found God

By Dovid Zaklikowski
The Rebbe

A Study in Irony: Modigliani's Jacques and Berthe Lipchitz

By Neal Benezra
The Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection
1986

Lipchitz, an Ocean Away from his Cubist Years

By Grace Glueck
New York Times
March 17, 2000

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