Chaim Jacob Lipchitz, 1891-1973, was born in Lithuania and came of age in Paris during the early 20th century, where he was active in the avante-garde community of Pablo Picasso, Amadeo Modigliani, Diego Rivera, Chaim Soutine, and Juan Gris. Art historian H. H. Arnasson, who ranked Lipchitz with Picasso and Chagall, wrote, "Lipchitz, as a pure sculptor, is ...unquestionably one of the greatest sculptors of this century."
Lipchitz' work is familiar to St. Louisans; his monumental 1927 bronze Joie de Vivre (a gift of Mrs. Mark C. Steinberg) is displayed at the Steinberg Skating Rink in Forest Park. The St. Louis Art Museum loaned two of Lipchitz' works, the 1923-25 Large Bather (gift of Morton D. May) and the 1926-30 Figure (gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Pulitzer) to the St. Louis Bicentennial Sculpture Exhibition at the Garden in 1985. The exhibition also included a 1940 Lipchitz' Mother and Child from an anonymous donor. The 1926-30 Figure was displayed at the Garden again for the Spring Sculpture Festival in 1972.
The architect Philip Johnson asked Lipchitz to make a wall sculpture to be placed on the brick chimney over a fireplace of a guest house owned by Mrs. John D. Rockefeller III on West 53rd Street in New York. Lipchitz decided to develop the piece from his Pegasus designs and call it Birth of the Muses in honor of the Rockefellers' interest in the arts. In 1950 he completed the work as a bronze relief five feet high. It was installed as planned and later was acquired by Lincoln Center.
About Jacques Lipchitz
Among the foremost 20th-century Cubist sculptors, Jacques Lipchitz produced muscular, expressive works exploring biblical and mythological stories and such universal human themes as fidelity, love, and motherhood. He moved to Paris in 1909, where he began his career and became influenced by the nascent cubist style of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque and the aesthetic of the machine. For Lipchitz, Cubism was a form of emancipation from preceding artistic movements, as his angular, vigorously modeled forms attest. Working principally in bronze (his favorite medium) and focused on the figure, he represented such allegories as The Rape of Europa, The Song of Songs, and the embrace of a mother and child, with emotion and sensitivity. “I never deserted the subject, even in my most abstract, cubist sculptures,” he once said, “because I have always believed that there must be communication between the artist and the spectator.”
Lithuanian-French, 1891-1973, Druskininkai, Lithuania