The sculptor Jacques Lipchitz is best known for the Cubist works he made in Paris during the early 1900s. As a collector he was mainly interested in African art, which had a profound influence on his work, but he also acquired modern works from artist friends, particularly Pablo Picasso.
Lipchitz moved to Paris from his native Lithuania in October 1909 to study sculpture at the École des Beaux-Arts and Académie Julian. He began exhibiting his work in 1911 and by 1916 was active in local avant-garde circles that included Guillaume Apollinaire, Jean Cocteau, Max Jacob, Henri Matisse, Jean Metzinger, Oscar Miestchaninoff, Amedeo Modigliani, and Pierre Reverdy. In 1913 the artist Diego Rivera introduced him to Picasso, and three years later he met Juan Gris through the dealer Léonce Rosenberg. Lipchitz and Gris collaborated from 1916 to 1920. Working in their distinct mediums, sculpture and painting respectively, the artists drew inspiration from each other’s work, often sharing the same motifs among them the figure of Harlequin. They investigated ways in which they could expand the application of geometry to Cubist language, introducing mathematical formulas and systems of proportion. Lipchitz was also friendly with the architects Pierre Chareau, Le Corbusier, and Robert Mallet-Stevens, and in 1922 Lipchitz and Miestchaninoff commissioned a double house and studio from Le Corbusier in Boulogne-sur-Seine (completed in 1925).
In his sculpture, Lipchitz used clay and plaster to explore the formal language of Cubism. Early in his career, the artist was associated with the Parisian dealer Paul Guillaume, but in 1916 he signed a contract with Léonce Rosenberg. He held his first solo exhibition at Rosenberg’s Galerie de L’Effort Moderne in 1920, the same year in which the French art critic Maurice Raynal, an early promoter of Cubism, published the first monograph on Lipchitz. After 1926, he also began showing work at Jeanne Bucher’s Galerie de la Renaissance in Paris. Bucher represented the artist from 1926 until 1941 and mounted his first large retrospective in 1930.
Coco Chanel and Dr. Albert C. Barnes were early patrons of Lipchitz’s work, and they contributed significantly to his popularity through their promotion of his work in France and the United States. Lipchitz immigrated to the United States in 1941 and settled in New York. The following year he signed a contract with Curt Valentin, and he exhibited at Valentin’s Buchholz Gallery until the dealer’s death in 1954, the same year in which the Museum of Modern Art held a large retrospective of the artist’ s work.
In addition to collecting works by his friends, Lipchitz admired and owned works by Théodore Géricault. He also assembled a large collection of African art, 80 items of which were exhibited at the Museum of Primitive Art, New York, in 1960. The Estate of Jacques Lipchitz is represented by the Marlborough Gallery.
For more information, see
Lipchitz, Jacques, and H. H. Arnason. My Life in Sculpture.
New York: The Viking Press, 1972.
The Lipchitz Collection. New York: The Museum of Primitive Art, 1960.
Raynal, Maurice. Lipchitz. Paris: Action, 1920.