Lipchitz, Jacques

Lipchitz, Jacques zhäk lēpshētsˈ [key], 1891–1973, French sculptor, b. Lithuania as Chaim Jacob Lipchitz. From 1909, Lipchitz studied in Paris, where he became a member of the Esprit Nouveau group. From about 1915 to 1930 he was widely recognized as one of the major cubist (see cubism) sculptors. Among his characteristic cubist bronzes in American collections are Girl with a Braid (c.1914–15, Philadelphia Mus. of Art) and Bather (1923–25, Sheldon Memorial Art Gall., Lincoln, Neb.). His vibrant skeletal constructions, which he originated in 1913, are unique in modern sculpture. In 1924 he began creating transparent sculptures, using the lost-wax technique, that resembled drawings in bronze. Allegories of struggle preoccupied him in the late 1930s, and he executed such works as The Rape of Europa, Bull and Candor, and Prometheus. Lipchitz emigrated to the United States in 1941, became a citizen in 1957, and spent much of his last decade in Italy. Returning briefly to France after World War II, he was commissioned in 1946 to design a font for the new church of Assy, Haute-Savoie. The bronze models for it, along with many of his works, were destroyed by fire in his New York studio in 1952, but the following year he resumed work on the Assy Madonna and on another sculpture, The Spirit of Enterprise, for Fairmount Park, Philadelphia. His American-period works broke with his earlier cool semi-abstract forms and he created many muscularly rounded, emotionally evocative, and often monumental sculptures. The most ambitious of these is probably Peace on Earth (1967–70, Los Angeles Music Center). In 1955 he also began producing his celebrated semiautomatics—masses of clay or plasticine, which he first molded underwater, using only his sense of touch, before seeing the sculpture through to completion. Other examples of his work are in such collections as the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, and the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia.

See his My Life in Sculpture, written with H. H. Arnason (1972); biography by A. G. Wilkinson (1990); studies by B. Van Born (1966) and H. H. Arnason (1969).

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