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Artists Jacob Epstein
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Jacob Epstein

British Sculptor

Movement: Modern Sculpture

Born: November 10, 1880 - New York City, New York

Died: August 19, 1959 - London England

Jacob Epstein Timeline

Quotes

"There are infinite modes of expression in the world of art, and to insist that only by one road can the artist attain his ends is to limit him."
Jacob Epstein
"My parents did not discourage me but could not understand how I could make a living by art. Their idea of an artist was a person who was condemned to starvation."
Jacob Epstein
"My earliest recollections are of the teeming East Side where I was born. This Hester Street and its surrounding streets were the most densely populated of any city on Earth; and looking back at it, I realize what I owe to its unique and crowded humanity."
Jacob Epstein
"Early on I saw the plastic quality in colored people and had friends among them; and later was to work from colored models and friends, including Paul Robeson, whose splendid head I worked from in New York. I tried to draw Chinamen in their quarter, but the Chinese did not like being drawn and would immediately disappear when they spotted me."
Jacob Epstein
"Epstein at work was a being transformed...the man himself, his movement, his stooping and bending, his leaping back, poised, then rushing forward...while he scrutinized the work from all angles, was the equivalent of dance."
Clare Sheridan, portrait sculptor who sat for Epstein
"He was a modeler, rather than a carver. To put it in other terms, his was a visual rather than a mental art, and with him the emphasis was on subject rather than on form. He was an intensely warm man, who in his work transmitted that warmth, that vitality, that feeling for human beings immediately. His master was Donatello, rather than Michelangelo: and in Rembrandt, whom he also studied most carefully, it was the direct and personal warmth that affected him perhaps more than the formal side."
Henry Moore

"Intellectually it [sculpture] requires a far greater effort of concentration to visualize a work in the round. I find it difficult to work on more than two busts in the same period. Also in carving there is absolute finality about every movement. It is impossible to rub out and begin again. This fight with the material imposes a constant strain. A sudden flaw or weakness may upset a year's work."

Jacob Epstein Signature

Synopsis

Jacob Epstein was a sculptor who sought to express the power and grandeur of human life in works which, at the same time, expressed the power of the materials that he used to create them. For Epstein, both the subject matter he carved and the material he carved it in had an inherent dignity. From New York, to Paris, to London, Epstein found an exciting, changing new world emerging as the 20th century began. As one of the leading innovators of modern sculpture, Epstein felt the direct expression of the qualities and strengths found in human life and in natural materials could produce art works which captured the truth about people and their world. Works like Rock Drill (1913), captured how the advances of the modern period could either liberate humanity or serve as another means of oppressing it. His portrait busts of Albert Einstein (1933) and Paul Robeson (1928) expressed the essential humanity and the struggle of these famous men. In his creative process, Epstein rejected the limitations of European tradition and conventional morality, which he felt attempted to dictate what was proper subject matter for art and thus control and repress the creative process. As a result, he was considered to be a highly controversial figure, while at the same time one of the key figures in the development of modern sculpture.

Key Ideas

For Epstein, artistic creation and the sexual act were intrinsically and inexplicably linked. Sexuality and creativity were chaotic processes that expressed the most powerful drives in the human and natural world, and both resulted in the creation of something new. As a result of his frank and realistic sexual imagery, conventional artists, reviewers, and collectors considered him scandalous, yet in works like his Facade of the British Medical Association (1907-08) and Tomb of Oscar Wilde (1909-1912), he remained committed to sexual imagery.
Epstein was one of the first sculptors to look beyond the boundaries of Europe for subject matter and materials. He embraced the aesthetics and drew influence from the cultures of India, Africa, Native Americans, and the Pacific Islands. For Epstein, art was an expression of human life, and thus needed to embrace all of humanity. His global outlook can be seen in works like Genesis (1929).
Epstein is often mentioned as one of the most important practitioners of the method of 'direct carving' - the work does not begin with a sketch or smaller clay model of the subject matter, which is then repeatedly crafted in other material until the artist feels the final, modeled image has been reproduced. Instead, the sculptor works directly upon the chosen material, attempting to spontaneously express the image the artist believed already existed, in some undiscovered manner, within the material. Epstein stressed that his choice of material was a part of the creative process, and often referred to this method as "truth to material".

Biography

Jacob Epstein Photo

Childhood and Early Training

Jacob Epstein was born on the Lower East Side of New York City, on November 10th, 1880. His parents emigrated from Poland to New York in the 1860s. Jacob's father became a successful businessman and eventually owned many tenements. There were five children in the family. Jacob had a sickly childhood and spent almost two years sick at home. In his autobiography, published in 1955, Epstein wondered whether his "sickness" set him apart from other children, as he spent his time inside studying, drawing, and reading intensively.

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Jacob Epstein Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Jacob Epstein
Interactive chart with Jacob Epstein's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
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Artists

Constantin Brâncu?iConstantin Brâncu?i
Auguste RodinAuguste Rodin

Personal Contacts

Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso
Amedeo ModiglianiAmedeo Modigliani

Movements

African ArtAfrican Art

Influences on Artist
Jacob Epstein
Jacob Epstein
Years Worked: 1898 - 1959
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Barbara HepworthBarbara Hepworth
Henry MooreHenry Moore

Personal Contacts

Movements

Modern SculptureModern Sculpture

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Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

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Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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