May 17, 2019 09:00 AM EDT Asheville, North Carolina


Sir Jacob Epstein

(British, 1880-1959) 

Monument to William Blake (S. 498), 1956, edition of 3 including the plaster, signed on back of proper right shoulder "Epstein", patinated bronze, 21-1/2 in.


In 1956, the Blake Society for Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey commissioned Jacob Epstein to create a portrait of the English poet and artist, William Blake (1757-1827). He worked from as many portraits and sketches as he could find. He was also able to procure photographs of the life masks in England's National Portrait Gallery to create the portrait. When the bronze bicentenary bust was unveiled in Westminster Abbey 24 November 1957, not many of the Blake society attended. It is thought they may not have approved of the rather menacing image, but such was the power of the sculptor to forge strongly emotional sculptures.

In Evelyn Silber's book, The Sculpture of Epstein, the publisher notes, "Jacob Epstein (1880-1959), though born in New York, was the most important British sculptor of the early twentieth century. Henry Moore is one among many who have acknowledged the positive role he played in their careers. Yet few artists have roused such passionate controversy over their work or suffered so many vociferous attacks from public and critics alike: charges ranged from obscenity and barbarism to belated romanticism. As Moore neatly put it, 'He took the brickbats . . . and as far as sculpture in this century is concerned, he took them first.' Epstein was a modern pioneer of direct carving and one of the first to collect and appreciate the function and form of primitive sculpture. However, as the author demonstrates in her introduction to Epstein's artistic career, critical hostility and the lack of public commissions made carving and collecting increasingly private obsessions, while his income and fame rested on portraiture. At a period when his traditional, humanistic approach was being superseded by new philosophies and new material, Epstein came to be regarded as one of the few sculptors capable of creating a portrait which was far more than a mere likeness."

The original commission still resides in Westminster Abbey. The original plaster was given by the artist's estate to The Israel Museum in Jerusalem. This bronze is the third that was originally held by the Epstein collector, Edward P. Schinman. It is noted as "unlocated" in Silber's catalogue raisonné.

Exhibited: Leicester Gallery, Exhibition No. 1191, Fifty Years of Bronzes and Drawings by Sir Jacob Epstein (1880-1959), June-July, 1960, no.56

Literature: Silber, Evelyn, and Jacob Epstein. The Sculpture of Epstein: With a Complete Catalogue. 1986, pg. 222, ill. 

Buckle, Richard, and Jacob Epstein. Jacob Epstein, Sculptor. London: Faber and Faber, 1963, pg. 400 ill.

See also:

Provenance:Ex-collection Mr. Edward P. Schinman; Private North Carolina Collection; From the Collection of Salem Academy and College, Winston-Salem, North Carolina


verdigris patina, good condition

Estimate: $10,000 - $15,000
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