Saturday, April 4, 2009

Jacques Lipchitz

June 27 - August 22, 2004

(above: (right: Jacques Lipchitz (American, born Lithuania, 1891-1973), Prometheus Strangling the Vulture, begun 1944, cast 1953-53, bronze, 96 1/2 x 92 inches. Purchased with the Lisa Norris Elkins Fund, 1952)

Selected from works found in collections in and around Philadelphia, the exhibition will explore the artist's momentous and colorful relationship with the city. Lipchitz's involvement with Philadelphia began in 1922, when Dr. Albert C. Barnes commissioned him to execute a group of stone bas-reliefs for Paul Cret's building for the Barnes Foundation in nearby Merion, Pa., and culminated in 1976, when his monumental sculpture Government of the People (1965-1976) sculpture was posthumously unveiled on Municipal Plaza opposite City Hall.

Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973), one of the most acclaimed and innovative sculptors of the twentieth century, had a longstanding connection with Philadelphia, where his work can be seen in the Museum, opposite City Hall, along the Schuylkill River, as well as at The Barnes Foundation in Merion.

A Jewish immigrant from Lithuania, Lipchitz moved to Paris in 1909 and then to America in 1941. During the last three decades of his life, Lipchitz was a frequent visitor to Philadelphia, where he worked on two major public commissions, was twice honored for his sculpture by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and had an important exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1964. Not surprisingly then, the Philadelphia Museum of Art owns one of the largest collections of Lipchitz's work outside of Israel. These holdings were further enriched by the recent gift of five sculptures by the Jacques and Yulla Lipchitz Foundation in honor of the Museum's 125th anniversary. (right: Jacques Lipchitz (American, born Lithuania, 1891-1973), Sailor with Guitar, 1914, bronze, 31 x 11 5/8 x 8 1/2 inches, Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of Mrs. Morris Wenger in memory of her husband, 1949)

Lipchitz is perhaps best known for the Cubist work he made in Paris in the 1910s, and the Museum owns several important examples, including Sailor with Guitar (1914) and Woman with Braid (1914), both conceived during a trip to Spain in the company of the Mexican painter Diego Rivera.

In the next decade, following the success of his Barnes Foundation commission in 1923, Lipchitz became the pre-eminent sculptor of the Cubist movement, receiving international recognition. In 1925, the heavy, angular forms, which had characterized Lipchitz's Cubist output, gave way to the more abstract forms of his openwork sculptures, inspired in part by the African art that he so passionately collected.

During and after the Second World War Lipchitz tried to give artistic expression to the turbulence and suffering of the preceding decade by modeling a number of mythological and biblical groups that are characterized by Baroque pathos and highly expressive gestures.

The Museum owns some outstanding examples of the artist's allegorical late work, including The Prayer (1943) and Prometheus Strangling the Vulture (1944-53). Beyond the Museum's walls, Lipchitz's The Spirit of Enterprise (1950-60) can be found on Kelly Drive, while the controversial Government of the People (1965-1976) dominates the Municipal Services Building Plaza opposite City Hall, where it looms over a realistic statue of Mayor Frank Rizzo who bitterly opposed its placement in Philadelphia. Supporters of this powerful symbol of democracy, led by R. Sturgis Ingersoll, eventually succeeded in having the work on public view in time for the nation's Bicentennial in 1976. (left: Jacques Lipchitz (American, born Lithuania, 1891-1973), Government of the People, c. 197, 32 x 18.5 inches. Gift of the city of Philadelphia)

This exhibition will trace the development of Lipchitz's art as represented in the Museum's holdings and selected objects from local area private collections, as well as some related works by other artists. Some 50 objects will be on view, including sculptures, drawings, prints and photographs.

"Philadelphia has long been an important destination for admirers of Jacques Lipchitz's innovative and powerful sculpture," said Anne d'Harnoncourt, Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Works from all periods of the artist's long and prolific career have an important presence inside and outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which owns one of the largest collections of Lipchitz's work outside of Israel. Our holdings were further enriched by the recent gift of five sculptures, four in plaster and one in terra cotta, by the Jacques and Yulla Lipchitz Foundation in honor of the Museum's 125th anniversary."

The Curator for the exhibition is Michael Taylor, Acting Head Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Museum has produced a double issue of the Museum Bulletin (Publication date: July 2004). Focusing on an important but unexplored aspect of the artist's career that involved over five decades of work in Philadelphia, the Bulletin will include an essay by Michael Taylor. It discusses the Museum's holdings and the artist's ties to Philadelphia, with particular emphasis on his early support from Dr. Albert C. Barnes. Among the other topics examined in detail are Lipchitz's two important commissions for public sculpture for the City of Philadelphia, his numerous appearances on the What in the World? television program that was broadcast nationwide from the University of Pennsylvania in the 1950s and 1960s, and the Museum's major 1964 retrospective.

Following on the heels of the opening of Jacques Lipchitz and Philadelphia are two free family programs offered by the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Education Department, which will provide hands-on opportunities to follow in Lipchitz's artistic footsteps.

On Sunday, July 11, the Museum will offer Celebrate: Lipchitz, during which families will be able to see the works of Lipchitz as Klingon Klezmer provides festive Jewish music. Participating families will also be able to take a self-guided tour, create three-dimensional art in the galleries, and make Lipchitz-inspired sculptures to take home.

Families are also invited to Celebrate: Sculpture Sunday, August 8, and meet well-known Philadelphia sculptors and watch as they demonstrate how to create sculptures out of wood, clay and bronze. Families will also be able to learn about three-dimensional art through self-guided tours and the Museum's Draw Together program.

rev. 6/7/04