Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973) Homme à la guitare 90 1/2 in (229.87 cm) (width) (Conceived and cast in 1923)

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Lot 33W
Jacques Lipchitz
Homme à la guitare 90 1/2 in (229.87 cm) (width)

US$ 300,000 - 500,000
£ 240,000 - 400,000

Impressionist & Modern Art

14 May 2019, 17:00 EDT

New York

Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973)
Homme à la guitare
inscribed with the initials 'JL' (on the front); inscribed and numbered '3/7 J Lipchitz' (on the top edge); stamped with the foundry mark 'Modern Art Foundry New York N.Y. EB' (on the side)
90 1/2 in (229.87 cm) (width)
Conceived and cast in 1923


  • The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Pierre Levai.

    The Estate of the Artist.
    Marlborough Gallery, New York.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner on January 3, 2008.

    Lipchitz: The Cubist Period, 1913-1930 (exhibition catalogue), Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, Inc., New York, March - April 1968, no. 47 (illustration of another cast n.p.).
    A. Wilkinson, The Sculpture of Jacques Lipchitz, A Catalogue Raisonné: The Paris Years 1910-1940, vol. I, New York, 1996, no. 153 (illustration of another cast p. 65).

    Conceived and cast during the pinnacle year of 1923, Homme à la guitare exemplifies Lipchitz's exploration of the Cubist aesthetic in the three-dimensional form and was conceived and executed at the summit of Lipchitz's Cubist exploration.

    Trained as an engineer in Vilnius, Lithuania, Lipchitz moved to Paris in 1909 where he quickly became fascinated with the French avant-garde art movement and wholeheartedly absorbed himself in its study. After a brief conscription in the imperial Russian army (1912-13), Lipchitz returned to the Parisian art scene where his friend Diego Rivera introduced him to Pablo Picasso. This introduction to one of the progenitors of the Cubist style enchanted Lipchitz and spurred him to utilize his engineering training to translate Cubist painting into a sculptural form. Lipchitz would later reflect: "The period during the First World War was a very exciting time in Paris, with artists, philosophers, and poets continually discussing and arguing about the work with which they were involved. Although I myself am little concerned with abstract theory, I certainly do think of cubism as a form of emancipation essentially different from artistic movements that had preceded it. Thus, impressionism, while it was a revolutionary technique, was still an essentially naturalistic movement concerned with a precise examination of the nature of light and the effect of changing lights on representational scenes and objects. Cubism did add a new dimension to painting and sculpture, a dimension that changed our way of looking at nature and the work of art" (quoted in J. Lipchitz & H. H. Arnason, Jacques Lipchitz: My life in sculpture, New York, 1972, p. 40).

    Lipchitz excelled in the transformation into three-dimension an aesthetic that is inherently, and contradictorily, two-dimensional. The intent of Cubism (particularly Analytical), as argued by fellow artists Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger in their book On Cubism (1912), is to overcome the inability to never see the whole of a three-dimensional object from a single vantage-point. To do so, artists must break with single-point perspective and depict the sides and back of an object simultaneously with the front. Two-dimensional media allow for this: by using a flat medium, an artist can further compress the visual space by removing all volume from the objects. The subsequent overflow of shapes onto one another creates a linear sequence of lines sometimes moored in realism and at other points used as the scaffolding of the picture field. Lipchitz himself described Cubism as akin to "standing at a certain point on a mountain and looking around. If you go higher, things will look different; if you go lower, again they will look different. It is a point of view" (quoted in B. van Bork, Jacques Lipchitz: The Artist at Work, New York, 1966, p. 199).

    Lipchitz's magnificence is his ability to extrapolate and subvert these core tenants of Cubism into a three-dimensional form. What Picasso began with his Cubist constructions and sculptures, Lipchitz took to its logical conclusion sculpturally. The subject of the present work is the traditional Cubist theme of a figure with a guitar for which Lipchitz applied the faceted, geometricized forms he learned from Picasso and Juan Gris. Part profile, part frontal, the figure lies on its side prominently holding the eponymous guitar. The forms are abstracted and reduced to simple planes, with the frontal views of the man and guitar juxtaposed and bleeding into their respective sides. As a wall relief the work intrinsically is flattened, but Lipchitz purposefully created voids in the structure to allow for a play of light to create inconsistent forms of depth and to heighten the geometry of the man and his guitar. The void in which the figure is situated distorts the forwardness of the figure; in total contradiction, the man seemingly projects outwards—underscored by the outward motion created by the diamond surrounding him—while he precipitously plunges into the chasm behind. The unity of the seemingly irreconcilable opposites, in conjunction with the composite view of the reclining man and guitar, typify Lipchitz's Cubist genius at its peak.

    This 1923 Homme à la guitare marks one of the final purely Cubist sculptures Lipchitz created; during the 1930s and 1940s the artist primarily focused his attention on monumental depictions of mythological and biblical conflicts as a response to contemporary world events. Homme à la guitare was cast in an edition of seven during the artist's lifetime. The present work remained within Lipchitz's estate until it was acquired by the Marlborough Gallery, New York.
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