Lot 392
  • 392

Jacques Lipchitz

100,000 - 150,000 USD
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  • Jacques Lipchitz
  • Transparent
  • Inscribed J. Lipchitz and bearing the artist's thumbprint
  • Bronze
  • Height: 15 3/4 in.
  • 40 cm


The artist's estate
Yulla Lipchitz, New York
Gifted from the above in 2002


Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, Manitoba; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of
Art, Kansas City & New York, The Jewish Museum, Jacques Lipchitz, 1989-91, no. 59


Alan G. Wilkinson, Jacques Lipchitz, A Life in Sculpture, Toronto, 1989, no. 59, illustrated p. 112


Dark brownish-green patina. Surface is clean; work has recently been waxed. Overall the work is in excellent condition.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

In the 1920's Lipchitz began experimenting with a radical approach to three-dimensional form, proposing a new sculpture of line and plane that expressed itself through the absence of form, through a hollow space that vibrated with life. In his "transparents," as he called these works, he found himself "playing with space, with a kind of open, lyrical construction that was a revelation to [him]" (Lipchitz, My Life in Sculpture, 1972, p. 86). These skeletal and aerial figures, bronzes cast from constructions in wax and cardboard, represented a hitherto unexplored juxtaposition of solids and voids; their fragile forms presented new technical challenges for him.

The present sculpture, Transparent, which the artist kept until his death, represents Lipchitz' mastery of his medium and is a rarely seen exploration into this boldly innovative sculpture. An ingenious open construction with a large outer curve arching through pierced space, this sculpture with its forms that are coiled, cupped and flared combines linear elements with a planar definition of form. With surfaces that are rounded and contours undulating to render volume, Lipchitz alters the rigors of his earlier Cubist geometry into flowing movement and carries to its logical conclusion the Cubist principle of the interpretation of planes, and the ambiguity of the convex and concave. Here, in this sculpture which moves us from all sides, mass is transposed and abstracted into freely moving space.

When Lipchitz discussed his discovery of transparent sculpture, he commented that it was not without significance that Freud's ideas were very much in the air at the time. By using an energized space to carry the meaning of his work Lipchitz was, it appears, seeking to explore or expose the part of the psyche that is beyond reach or accessible only through dreams ‒ through the irrational or illogical. In a process not unlike 'automatic writing', a favored technique of the Surrealists, he let the line of his three-dimensional 'drawing ' (as he called it) drift into improbable directions. His transparents, as we see in the present work, celebrate the fertility of an idea that emerges out of an unformed, meditative state; they refuse to confine meaning and prefer to leave the field of interpretation open so the sculptor could make of his art something infinite, indefinable. Thus Alan Wilkinson wrote of the present work that it "is one of the few sculptures in Lipchitz' entire oeuvre that do not suggest or even hint at a recognizable subject. It is some sort of cloaked figure, or a figure and its shadow." Others may interpret its intriguing forms in different ways: a woman with leaves, a coq, the vital shell of some living form or an opening flower, the qualities of its bud- and stamen-like forms so tactile that they become subtly erotic. There are suggestions of the human and floral, and plant and animal may be seen to merge in meaning.

Lipchitz and Picasso, in the same period, were borrowing freely from each other's works and examining the psychological in two different ways (see fig. 2). Transparent with its light-catching surface that creates shadows reflects both of these approaches, and the artistic explorations followed by the two men ran very closely in parallel.

Fig. 1 Another view of the present work
Fig. 2 Pablo Picasso, Woman in the Garden, 1929-30, bronze