From June 27 through August 22, 2004, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will present an exhibition of 60 sculptures and works on paper by Jacques Lipchitz (1891- 1973), one of the most significant sculptors of the 20th century. Selected from works found in collections in and around Philadelphia, the exhibition will explore the artist’s momentous and colorful relationship with the city. Lipchitz’s involvement with Philadelphia began in 1922, when Dr. Albert C. Barnes commissioned him to execute a group of stone bas-reliefs for Paul Cret’s building for the Barnes Foundation in nearby Merion, Pa., and culminated in 1976, when his monumental sculpture Government of the People (1965-1976) sculpture was posthumously unveiled on Municipal Plaza opposite City Hall.
Jacques Lipchitz and Philadelphia will be an indoor/outdoor exhibition bringing together major works from throughout the artist’s career. Lipchitz is perhaps best known for the Cubist work he made in Paris in the 1910s. The Museum owns several important examples, including two bronzes, Sailor with Guitar (1914) and Woman with Braid (1914), both of which were made during a trip to Spain in the company of his friend and mentor, the Mexican painter Diego Rivera. After World War II, Lipchitz’s work took a new turn as he tried to give artistic expression to the turbulence and suffering of the preceding decade through allegorical works such as The Prayer (1943) and Prometheus Strangling the Vulture (1944-53).
"Philadelphia has long been an important destination for admirers of Jacques Lipchitz’s innovative and powerful sculpture," said Anne d’Harnoncourt, Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Works from all periods of the artist’s long and prolific career have an important presence inside and outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which owns one of the largest collections of Lipchitz’s work outside of Israel. Our holdings were further enriched by the recent gift of five sculptures, four in plaster and one in terra cotta, by the Jacques and Yulla Lipchitz Foundation in honor of the Museum’s 125th anniversary."
The exhibition will also take visitors beyond the Museum’s walls, where works by the artist are among the most renowned in Philadelphia’s rich collection of public art. The Spirit of Enterprise (1950-60) can be found on nearby Kelly Drive, while Government of the People (1965-1976) dominates the Municipal Services Building Plaza opposite City Hall. It looms today over a recently installed realistic statue of Mayor Frank Rizzo who bitterly opposed its placement in Philadelphia during Lipchitz’s lifetime. It was R. Sturgis Ingersoll, the Museum’s longtime trustee and president, and one of the artist’s greatest patrons, who led the effort to have this powerful symbol of democracy placed on public view in time for the Bicentennial of the United States in 1976. Ingersoll became a close friend and supporter of Lipchitz following the artist’s arrival in the United States in 1941 as a refugee from the conflict in Europe.
Born in Druskieniki, Lithuania, Lipchitz arrived in Paris in 1909 at age of 18. Following his academic training at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the Académie Julian, Lipchitz eventually befriended artists such as Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris, whose Cubist paintings would have a profound impact on his sculpture after 1914. The Barnes Foundation commission brought international fame and recognition to Lipchitz at a time when he was tiring of the formal restrictions imposed by the cubist idiom. His subsequent work is characterized by an interest in transparency and technical innovation. Disturbed by the rise of anti-Semitism in Hitler’s Germany in the 1930s, Lipchitz began to engage in sculpture that carried a political message, such as his Prometheus Strangling the Vulture, which met with violent controversy when it was exhibited in Paris in 1937. The Nazi threat prompted Lipchitz to flee Paris for New York in 1941. He eventually settled in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, where he worked in a purpose-built studio until his death in 1973.
During the last three decades of his life Lipchitz was a frequent visitor to Philadelphia, where he worked on two major public commissions, was twice honored for his sculpture by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and had an important exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1964, entitled Jacques Lipchitz: A Retrospective Selected by the Artist, which cemented his reputation as one of the greatest sculptors of the modern era.
Jacques Lipchitz and Philadelphia is organized by Michael Taylor, Associate Curator and Acting Head of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and supported in part by a generous grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Museum has produced a double issue of the Museum Bulletin (Publication date: July 2004). Focusing on an important but unexplored aspect of the artist’s career that involved over five decades of work in this city, the Bulletin will include an essay by Michael Taylor. It discusses the Museum’s holdings and the artist’s ties to Philadelphia, with particular emphasis on his early support from Dr. Albert C. Barnes. Among the other topics examined in detail are Lipchitz’s two important commissions for public sculpture for the City of Philadelphia, his numerous appearances on the What in the World? television program that was broadcast nationwide from the University of Pennsylvania in the 1950s and 1960s, and the Museum’s major 1964 retrospective. It is available in the Museum store ($18) or by calling 800 329-4856 or online at www.philamuseum.org.
Following on the heels of the opening of Jacques Lipchitz and Philadelphia are two family programs offered by the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Education Department, which will provide hands-on opportunities to follow in Lipchitz’s artistic footsteps.
On Sunday, July 11, the Museum will offer Celebrate: Lipchitz, during which families will be able to see the works of Lipchitz as Klingon Klezmer provides festive Jewish music. Participating families will also be able to take a self-guided tour, create three-dimensional art in the galleries, and make Lipchitz-inspired sculptures to take home.
Families are also invited to Celebrate: Sculpture Sunday, August 8, and meet well-known Philadelphia sculptors and watch as they demonstrate how to create sculptures out of wood, clay and bronze. Families will also be able to learn about threedimensional art through self-guided tours and the Museum’s Draw Together program.
Digital images are available upon request. Please send all media inquiries to Dominic Mercier, Press Officer, (215) 684-7364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.