Jacques Lipchitz (Druskininkai, Lithuania 1891 - Capri, Italy, 1973) is one of the pioneers of Cubism in Sculpture, along with artists such as Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Alexander Archipenko and Henri Laurens. The artist from Lithuania moved to Paris in 1909, where he consolidated his vocation as a sculptor.
In spite of the avant-garde nature his work, Lipchitz follows in the foot-steps of the sculptural tradition of the nineteenth century as regards to the creation process. As with artists such as Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Edgar Degas and Auguste Rodin, the sketch is central to his practice. This leads him to keep many of the pieces made from clay or plaster prior to their casting in the final material, usually bronze.
This exhibition presents the twenty-one pieces that are included in the donation Jacques & Yulla Lipchitz Foundation Inc. made to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. This collection of sculptures, dating from 1914 and 1971-72, complete the review of the Lithuanian sculptor’s career that the Museo Reina Sofía begins with the exhibition Lipchitz. 1891-1973. Un mundo sorprendido en el espacio, held this year.
The earliest piece from the donation is Acrobat on Horseback (1914), an example of some artists’ interests from that period in the world of circus. The piece is produced the year Lipchitz visits Spain and settles in a village on the island of Mallorca, a stay that inspires one of his most important sculptures from this collection, Sailor with Guitar (1917). This piece does not only reproduce one of sculptor’s most famous iconographic motifs, but it is also considered his first completely Cubist production.
In 1920, Lipchitz partially abandons Cubism and begins to experiment with figuration. Exhibited from this period is Portrait of Jean Cocteau (1920), a bust within the "return to order". This work is followed by Reclining Woman (1921) commissioned by the fashion designer Coco Chanel. Also thanks to a commission, Lipchitz creates Harlequin with Mandoline in Oval (1923), one of his most outstanding Cubist pieces. Through bas-reliefs, the sculptor is influenced by the pictorial compositions of Juan Gris and Pablo Picasso. The musical theme appears again Figure with Guitar (1925) and Woman with Guitar: Maquette 2 (1925), both considered initial stages leading to Reclining Nude with Guitar (1928) which belongs to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York .
The massive sculptures of Cubist orthodoxy are eliminated by the discovery of the "transparent" empty spaces integrated into the composition itself. This discovery is essential to contemporary sculpture and materialises in the work of the sculptor, in pieces like Man Leaning on Elbows (1925) and Meditation (1926). In Reclining Figure (1928) a female figure with curves and rotund volumes is portrayed as part of the landscape. This eroticism is also seen in works such as Encounter (1929) and alternates with Lipchitz's predilection for biblical themes. This includes Return of the Prodigal Son. Maquette 3 (1931) and Jacob and the Angel. Maquette 1 (1931). Classical mythology also comes into play in works like The Arrival (1941), reminiscent in its composition to Apollo and Daphne by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and The Rape of Europa (Variation) (1960-70).
Finally, included in the donation are the pieces Sketch for Bellerophon taming Pegasus (1964) and Sketch for "Our Tree of Life" (1971-72), the previous steps toward two of the most important monuments carried out by the sculptor in the last stage of his production.