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Jacob Epstein

Quiz (Powys Evans) (1899-1982)


Inscribed with title below mount

Pen and ink

8 x 8 inches

'A Century of British Art: 1900-1945', Chris Beetles Gallery, 21 June-17 July 2021, No 33

The sculptor and painter, Jacob Epstein (1880-1959), was born in New York to Russian-Polish parents of Orthodox Jewish descent, and initially studied at the Art Students League. On moving to Paris, he attended the Académie Julian, though it was only once he had settled in London in 1905 that he began to define his identity as that of a sculptor. This he achieved from 1907, when he started work on both distinctive modelled portrait busts and carved reliefs for Charles Holden’s new headquarters of the new British Medical Association in the Strand. The National Vigilance Society instigated a press campaign to have those reliefs removed on the grounds of obscenity, but the support of key members of the art world ensured their immediate survival and aided the artist’s lasting fame. He developed an interest in non-Western sculptural models that aligned him increasingly with Modernists on both sides of the English Channel. And, though he never fully became a member of Percy Wyndham Lewis’s Vorticists, he produced, in Rock Drill (1913-16, Tate), the movement’s most ambitious sculpture. After the First World War, he gradually changed direction, by committing himself more fully to the modelling tradition in Western sculpture, and creating warmly humanist figurative works. Those works eventually received acclaim and led to Epstein being knighted in 1954. Just a year earlier, he had helped found the Society of Portrait Sculptors.

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