1916; cast before 1930
Gift of Harry T. Lewis Jr., Class of 1955, Tuck 1956, 1981P; S.2004.44
Alexander Archipenko was an artist, working mainly in sculpture, who strove endlessly for innovation and creative invention in his work. Extremely ambitious and independent, he was forced to leave the School of Art in Kiev in 1905 after three years of study because he criticized the academic approach of his teachers. Later, in Paris, following only two weeks of instruction at the École des Beaux- Arts, he decided to turn to the collections of the Musée du Louvre for his education. Although he always resisted being defined by any specific movements, Archipenko’s early work reflects the sculpture of contemporaries including Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957), as well as the aesthetic notions of cubism.
Archipenko produced White Torso in 1916, while residing in a villa at Cimiez, a suburb of Nice, where he remained throughout World War I. Marble, bronze, and plaster versions of this sculpture exist. The graceful nude form was a central focus of Archipenko’s work throughout his career. He wrote, “If muscles or bones interfere with the line, I eliminate them in order to obtain simplicity, purity, and the expression of stylistic line and form." In this quest for purity, he was certainly inspired by Brancusi, who was one of the first artists to represent the body as a simple arrangement of abstract volumes. Archipenko used polished metal that reflects the light to insist on the qualities of the object’s surface and its interaction with the surrounding space.
After he immigrated to the United States in 1923, he directed the production of several early casts of this sculpture with different finishes at the Kunst Foundry in New York. In 1929, Archipenko included a version of this work in a Saks Fifth Avenue window display that he designed, which featured a machined metal backdrop. The simplicity of design so central to Archipenko’s art easily found a place within the commercial and decorative aesthetics of the 1920s and 1930s.
Last Updated: 1/18/10