EVER SINCE 1902, when he illustrated Hutchins Hapgood's book, The Spirit of the Ghetto, Epstein's interest in drawing and painting had continued and indeed grown. While the greater portion of his time has been occupied by the concerns of sculpture, there have been periods which he has devoted to painting and drawing, not as plans or sketches for sculpture but for the paintings and drawings themselves.
The first such series of drawings which he exhibited in London was shown in 1931. They were drawings to illustrate the Old Testament and were curiously similar in feeling to the old Epstein drawings of the East Side.
It is easy to understand why the Old Testament with its heroic legends and darkly somber prophecies should strike this imaginative artist as a fit theme for illustration. And despite the various criticisms which have been leveled against them, the fact remains that the sales of the drawings were more than satisfactory.
Epstein, in common with most sculptors, has found that it is as a rule easier to sell his drawings than his sculpture.
Several years after the Old Testament drawings, Epstein rented a cottage in Epping Forest and spent the Summer there with his daughter. At first, he started to paint a bit as a diversion, but it soon became an exacting labor. Every day, in the company of Peggy-Jean, he would walk through the forest until they came across something worth painting. What had started slowly quickened in pace until Epstein found that he had done more than a hundred water-colors of Epping Forest. But he didn't regret the time spent in this way. He felt that perhaps Epping Forest was well worth a hundred water-colors.
The same thing was to happen to him again, to an even larger degree. He was asked by a dealer to paint some flower studies and agreed to do about twenty. Actually, he did almost three hundred. For weeks he lived in a riot of color and profusion of dead and dying blossoms. But as the sales of these paintings were uniformly successful, it was apparent that the quantity in no way impaired their worth or desirability.
Unfortunately not all of Epstein's ventures into the fields of drawing and painting were successful. Mr. Macy of the Limited Editions Club invited Epstein to do a series of drawings for an edition of Baudelaire Les Fleurs du Mal. This