SCULPTURE, IN THE past few decades, has progressed in tremendous strides. It has been the good fortune of Epstein to have lived in a period so fruitful and to which he could contribute so much. If we consider that Epstein's own life has spanned the range of sculpture from the romantic impressionism of Rodin to the abstract expressionism of Brancusi, we begin to see the truly unique nature of this period. And this remarkable advance was due in large part to the efforts of a small group of men--and prominent among this group was Jacob Epstein.
There has been much speculation as to the probable nature of Epstein's influence had he chosen to remain and work in America. On the whole the results would have been largely the same.
It was inevitable that Epstein and his contemporaries should react to and be influenced by the newly recognized values of primitive art. This art--the product of the African wood carver or the stone carving of an early Egyptian --had within itself the elements for which men of Epstein's caliber were seeking. There was to be found in these works all of the essential qualities which had been so profoundly ignored by European and American sculptors of the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century. These qualities--a respect for materials, the recognition of an essentially sculptural form and the patient appreciation of the true problems of craftsmanship, all found an eager and receptive audience in Epstein and a handful of his contemporaries.
Modern sculpture, as a result, is blossoming in both England and America. The new vision of sculpture is not a romantic but a dynamic one. It is a vision of beauty but a practical form of beauty which will function as a true expression of its time and purpose.
It is to this new vision that Epstein has made his great contribution. One could dissect Epstein's work and point out where his bronze pieces have influenced portraiture, where his stone work has influenced direct carving, etc. And while all of this might very well be true, it would not give us a true picture of Epstein. His work has been far too homogeneous to allow of a divided appraisal. No matter what the form, portraiture, direct carving, or architectural sculpture, all of his work drives toward a necessary conclusion --the creation of a sculpture which will be a practical, aesthetic, and essential part of living.