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Hood Museum of Art
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755

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Jacques Lipchitz, French, 1891-1973

Woman Reading (Liseuse)
Terracotta, stained
Purchased through the William B. Jaffe and Evelyn A. Jaffe Hall Fund; S.965.13

Beginning in 1914 and 1915, Jacques Lipchitz, one of the most innovative sculptors of the twentieth century, produced a number of bronzes that brilliantly explored the potential of cubism as a sculptural language. Following the lead of Pablo Picasso and others, Lipchitz designed these pieces in a manner that defied traditional conventions of sculpture as a static, commemorative art form. At the heart of all of his early creations, no matter how abstract they appeared, was an anthropomorphic focus. "In them," he later wrote, "I was definitely building up and composing the idea of the human figure from abstract sculptural elements of line, plane, volume, [and] of mass contrasted with void completely realized in three dimensions." Over the course 109 of his long career Lipchitz created a variety of forms, believing that cubism could be infinitely modified to express individual feelings and emotions.

The small terracotta is a rare preparatory work for one of the bronzes. Lipchitz's preferred practice was to begin modeling his composition in clay, after which—when he was satisfied with it—he would fire it in a kiln in preparation for a large plaster maquette to serve as a mold. Few of his study pieces survive. The plaster version would then be used to make a bronze cast, generally in editions of seven.

Woman Reading corresponds to a subject that he explored in a series of works cast in bronze in 1919 entitled The Reader. It followed his close collaboration and fertile exchanges with the Spanish cubist artist Juan Gris and the Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro (1893-1948), who lived together with their families outside Paris in the final years of World War I. Both Lipchitz and Gris assisted Huidobro in his poetic rendering of cubist themes, while at the same time incorporating literary references in some of their works of this period.

Last Updated: 4/29/14