Jacques Lipchitz
Biography of Russian Cubist Sculptor, Abstract Artist.

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See: History of Sculpture.


Key Projects

Government of the People (1976)
City of Philadelphia.

Birth of the Muses (1944-50)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973)

A student of the French Academy of Fine Arts, and a member of the avant-garde section of the Ecole de Paris, the Russian-Lithuanian sculptor, Jacques Lipchitz, became a pioneer of Cubism and one of the few Russian artists to translate Cubist principles into three-dimensional sculpture. Along with the Ukrainian artist Alexander Archipenko (1887-1964), he is regarded as one of the leading modernists in Russian sculpture. and is ranked among the top abstract sculptors of the twentieth century.

Among his most famous works of abstract sculpture are: Half-standing Figure (1915, Tate); Man with Guitar (1915, Museum of Modern Art, New York); Bather III (1917, Barnes Foundation, Merion PA); Pierrot Escapes (1926, Kunsthaus Zurich); Woman with Guitar (1927, Private collection); The Couple/The Cry (1928-9, Kroller-Muller Museum, Otterlo); Prometheus Strangling the Vulture (1944-53, Walker Art Center Minneapolis); as well as large-scale public monuments such as Peace on Earth (1969, LA Country Music Centre), Fountain (1972, St Thomas' Hospital London), and Our Tree of Life (1967, Mount Scopus, Israel).

Art Studies

Lipchitz came to study art in Paris in 1909, eventually becoming a French citizen in 1924. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the Academy Julian. Here, he became friends with other important artists of his day including Modigliani, Diego Rivera, Chaim Soutine and the sculptors Constantin Brancusi and Alexander Archipenko. Lipchitz's first exhibited sculptures were sensitive and drew inspiration from Rodin. He was also inspired by Scythian sculpture, from Ancient Persia. He studied the classical antiquities, sketching from sculptures at the Hermitage on a visit to St Petersburg in 1911.

For a list of sculptors like
Jacques Lipchitz, see:
Modern Artists.

See: Greatest Sculptors.

See: Russian Art.

Aristide Maillol (1861-1944)
Ernst Barlach (1870-1938)
James Earle Fraser (1876-1953)
Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957)
Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916)
Jean Arp (1886-1966)
Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948)
Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)

Ossip Zadkine (1890-1967)
Naum Gabo (1890-1977)
Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Louise Nevelson (1899-1988)
Alberto Giacometti (1901-66)
Jean Dubuffet (1901-85)
Barbara Hepworth (1903-75)
David Smith (1906-65)

For the top works, see:
Greatest Sculptures Ever.


But from 1913, on meeting Picasso and Juan Gris, Lipchitz worked as a Cubist. In 1912 he exhibited at the Salon National des Beaux-Arts and the Salon d'Automne. In 1915 he began constructing detachable figurative sculptures by slotting pieces of wood or card into each other (similar to Naum Gabo), while also continuing with his large scale Cubist works. From 1916 the art dealer Leonce Rosenberg, represented Lipchitz's works (along with those of Picasso, Gris and Rivera), thus giving him a regular income. In 1920 Lipchitz had his first solo exhibition at Rosenberg's Galerie L'Effort Moderne in Paris. The same year, an American investor Dr Albert Barnes commissioned and bought works from him, which meant he could afford to cast works in bronze more freely, saving works which would otherwise have been left vulnerable due to the materials they were made with. In 1922 Lipchitz was commissioned by the Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pennsylvania for five bas-reliefs.


Return from Abstract

Towards the end of the First World War, Lipchitz felt that his experimentation with Cubism led him too far in the direction of abstract art. At this point he returned to a more figurative, and more easily understood style, although still retaining some Cubist attributes. Two good examples can be viewed in the Tate, London: Seated Man with Clarinet (1920) and Reclining Woman (1921). From the mid 1920s Lipchitz developed a more linear style, in what he termed 'transparents', and used his works to present traditional subjects from the Bible and mythology. He developed a largely personal style, abandoning the geometric shapes of Cubist sculpture, and his large scale works retained the rough forms of modelled clay for dramatic effect.

Note About Sculpture Appreciation
To learn how to evaluate modernist Cubist sculptors like Jacques Lipchitz, see: How to Appreciate Modern Sculpture. For earlier works, please see: How to Appreciate Sculpture.

International Fame

With the German occupation of France during the Second World War, Lipchitz, as a Jew feared deportation and escaped to America. He was well received in the States, exhibiting frequently and was successful in attracting international commissions for plastic art, important examples include: Prometheus (1937 for the Paris World Fair's Science Pavilion); Peace on Earth (1969, LA Country Music Centre) and Our Tree of Life (1967, Mount Scopus, Israel). From the late 1940s he became an international star, exhibiting in Germany, France and Israel. In 1949 he was one of the leading abstract sculptors exhibiting at the 3rd Sculpture International held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He has subsequently been identified in a LIFE Magazine photograph showing 70 of the artists taken at the time. In 1954 a major retrospective of Lipchitz's work was held at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, and it travelled to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and The Cleveland Museum of Art. In 1959 he created a small series on bronzes titled To the Limit of the Possible, which were shown to great acclaim at the Fine Arts Associates in New York. A year earlier he received a Creative Arts Award from Brandeis University, a research university with a liberal arts focus in Boston.

Awards and Recognition

A studio fire in 1952 destroyed many of his early pieces, especially his maquettes (hand crafted scale models). However the disaster seemed to spur the sculptor into more invention. He began to create 'semi-automatic' pieces created by squeezing warm wax and developing images suggested by the results; and combining the wax with materials he found in his studio. This free process of modelling forms gave his Cubist sculptures a highly individual feel. In 1961 he began to be represented by the Otto Gerson Gallery, New York (presently the Marlborough Gallery). In 1965 Lipchitz received an award for cultural achievement from Boston University and was made an Honorary Doctor of Laws by the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. A year later he received a Gold Medal from the Academy of Arts and Letters, New York. In 1971 the sculptor travelled to Israel to attend a retrospective of his works at the Tel Aviv Museum. (See also: Jewish Art Museum.)


Lipchitz died in 1973 and was buried in Israel. He was succeeded by his famous student Marcel Mouly (1918-2000), French abstract painter who was influenced by analytical Cubism and synthetic Cubism. Today Lipchitz's works can be found in some of the most prestigious museums in the world including the Centre George Pompidou, Paris; the Tate Gallery, London and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. He remains one of the most important twentieth century sculptors.

Selection of Sculptures by Jacques Lipchitz

Unless otherwise indicated, the location is the Tate Collection, London.

- Dancer with Veil (1928)
- Reclining Figure (1929)
- Woman Leaning on a Column (1929, cast 1960s)
- Dancer (1929, cast 1960s)
- The Snuffer (1930, cast 1960s)
- Meditation (1931, cast 1960s)
- Jacob and the Angel (1931, cast 1960s)
- First Study for Prometheus (1931, cast 1960s)
- The Song of the Vowels (1931, Cornell University, Princeton)
- Picador, Bas Relief (c. 1932)
- Head, Bust and Arms (1932)
- Woman with Hair (1932)
- Bull and Condor (1932, cast 1960s)
- Gericault (1933)
- David and Goliath (1933, cast 1963)
- First Study for 'Toward a New World' (1934, cast 1965)
- Study for 'Prometheus' (1936, drawing)
- The Rape of Europa (1938)
- Song of Songs (1945)
- Mother and Child (1949, Honolulu Academy of Arts)
- Sketch for 'Our Tree of Life' (1962)
- Sketch for Duluth Monument (1963)
- Bellerophon Taming Pegasus (1964-66, Columbia Law School)

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• For more about modernism in sculpture and painting, see: Modern Art.

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