Lipchitz

Lipchitz

Lipchitz

Lipchitz

Excerpt

Forty years ago, In Paris, Jacques Lipchitz, sculptor, became aware of the advanced esthetic tendencies of his time. Today, Lipchitz, working in his own immense studio overlooking the Hudson near New York, still continues and expands what he began at that time. Then, out of some four years at the Academie Julian, out of the accuracies of nineteenth century naturalism and the graces of the decorative art of the turn of the century, he came into the revealing light of a modern art. Today, though his work has gone through many phases, employed a variety of techniques, and undertaken monumental and tragic themes, though his preoccupations, both formal and symbolic, are at first glance very different from what they were in that heroic era of purely artistic upheaval, Lipchitz still thinks of himself as a cubist. Then Lipchitz was the Benjamin of a group of artists, all of them young, engaged together in the creation of a drastically innovating method. Today he is a sculptor of international reputation, possessed of his own distinctive style, whose work has been of essential importance in establishing the direction of yet another younger generation.

Lipchitz' recent sculpture is all curved outlines, modelled form and pierced volume; during those years of beginning it was composed of sharp edges, flat planes and solid mass. For the artist such alterations in appearance are trivial. This is partly because any style seems more varied and individual to its creators than it does from the unifying perspective of four decades distance. But more basically it is because 'cubism' must not be limited by the narrow terms of arbitrary period and external style. For Lipchitz cubism is a point of view, perhaps the point of view of the twentieth century. 'It is a vantage point,' he explains, 'which gave us all a new understanding of art and the world and their relation. and from which I still look down upon nature and the elements of creation.' Cubism is that break from the naturalist credo of the nineteenth century which restored to the artist his creative liberty, permitting him free play in the invention and arrangement of forms, allowing him maximum use of visual combination and imaginative association, loosening him from pedestrian concern with details, and making possible a wealth of allusive meaning through the interplay of created form.

Lipchitz views the development of this essential freedom in historical perspective. He places its beginnings farther back than cubism and does not (as many another artist of his generation might) see its culmination in abstraction. The impressionist generation, both painters and sculptors, took the first steps. Cézanne's great contribution to the twentieth century has been grasped and mastered. For Lipchitz, the lesson of Rodin, equally if not more important, is just beginning to be understood. Rodin the realistic craftsman, the modeller of incredible facility and sentimental ease has hidden from us the significance of his imaginative creation. Despite all Rodin's technical skill, his mastery of finish and of apparent lack of finish, his immense knowledge of the sculpture of the past, Rodin might have said of himself what Cézanne actually did:

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