- Alexander Archipenko
- inscribed Archipenko, numbered 10/12 and dated 1914
(Probably) acquired from the above by the present owner in the 1960s
Donald Karshan, Archipenko, the Sculpture and Graphic Art, Tübingen, 1974, mentioned pp. 11-12, 15, 18, 23, 32, 34, 36, 39 & 149; illustration of the larger cast p. 10 & 149
Anette Barth, Alexander Archipenkos plastisches Œuvre, Frankfurt am Main, 1997, vol. II, no. 56, illustration of the larger cast p. 123
The years 1913 and 1914 have been described by scholars as the highpoint of Archipenko's creativity. This was the period of his most important and successful work that established him on the Paris scene as a pioneer of modern sculpture. In the Spring of 1914 at the Salon des Indépendants, Archipenko showed what are considered four of his finest works: Carrousel Pierrot, Boxing, Médrano II and the original plaster version of the present work, painted black (fig. 1). Describing Archipenko's achievement during this period Katherine Jánszky Michaelsen and Nehama Guralnik, have written: 'He initiated the opening-up of sculpture, not just by piercing a hole into it, but by presenting an alternative to the traditional notion of the monolith that merely displaces space... In the fertile artistic environment of Paris, under the aegis of cubism, Archipenko was always among the first to perceive a new possibility in sculpture and initiate its development.' (K. J. Michaelson and N. Guralnik, Alexander Archipenko: A Centennial Tribute (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. & Tel Aviv Museum, Tel Aviv, 1987, pp. 45-46).
The title of the present work itself suggests the idea of swift movement through water, yet the majestic figure of the Gondolier is stationary and immobile, revealing another mood similar to Boxers and Dance. The fusion of the gondolier's second leg and his oar reveals Archipenko's exploration of the Futurist concept of simultaneity. Archipenko never merely transferred Cubist theories from painting to sculpture, but rather invented his own form of three-dimensional Cubism. The figure of the Gondolier is constructed with architectural precision from what he describes as 'a series of sharp-edged tapering elements contrasting with rounded tubular ones. The disjointed quality of the components, especially the abrupt break at the knees, is reminiscent of Geometric Statuette, 1914... However, Gondolier is less overtly Cubist and has some of the robot-like quality of Carrousel Pierrot' (K. J. Michaelsen, Archipenko, A Study of the Early Works, 1908-1920, New York, 1977, p. 98).
FIG. 1, Archipenko's original black plaster of Gondolier in the Salon des Indépendants, Paris, March 1914