Lot 15
  • 15

Elie Nadelman

400,000 - 600,000 USD
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  • Elie Nadelman
  • Seated Woman with Raised Arm
  • galvano-plastique 
  • height: 49 inches (124.5 cm) on a 22 inch (55.9 cm) wood base
  • Executed circa 1926-27.


Estate of the artist
Grandson of the above
Tom Veilleux Gallery, Portland, Maine (acquired from the above)
Acquired by the present owner from the above


New York, M. Knoedler & Co.; Paris, France, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Sculpture by Elie Nadelman, January-February 1927
New York, Museum of Modern Art, The Sculpture of Elie Nadelman, 1948, illustrated p. 39
New York, Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, Elie Nadelman Galvano Plastiques, February-March 2001, no. 6, illustrated
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Elie Nadelman: Sculptor of Modern Life, April-July 2003, fig. 186, illustrated p. 164

Catalogue Note

Elie Nadelman arrived in Paris in 1904, quickly establishing himself within the art community and achieving his first success in 1905, when three of his drawings were accepted at the Salon d’Automne. In April 1909 Galerie E. Druet held a solo exhibition of the artist’s sculpture. The exhibition was an instant sensation, and Nadelman captured the attention of the great art patrons Leo and Gertrude Stein, as well as Alfred Stieglitz. Writes Barbara Haskell, “Nadelman’s radical simplification of form and stylized distortion of shapes became a pulse point of debate about the future of sculpture, reportedly disturbing even [Pablo] Picasso and stimulating Amedeo Modigliani to turn temporarily to sculpture” (Elie Nadelman: Sculptor of Modern Life, New York, 2003, p. 31).

In 1925, Nadelman began to experiment with galvano-plastique, an artistic technique and involved process that required immersing a plaster form into a metal bath—often bronze or copper—and then applying an electrical current that caused the metal to chemically adhere to the surface of the plaster. After first utilizing the technique on a group of busts, Nadelman then turned his attention to creating large scale, full-length female figures that are characterized by a dynamic and lyrical quality. Five of these works, including Seated Woman with Raised Arm, were first exhibited at M. Knoedler & Co. in New York in January 1927. A longstanding practice within the realm of decorative arts, galvano-plastique attracted Nadelman for the unique and varied surfaces it created. He enhanced these effects by scoring the surface of a work with a file to achieve an antique-like patina and to create an overall shimmering quality. Though Nadelman often originally highlighted features such as the eyes, hair, and waistbands of his galvano-plastiques with blue paint—details that have diminished with time—he always intended for them to exude a timeless and universal quality that is absent from his work in other media.

Beyond its aesthetic opportunities, however, galvano-plastique also appealed to the democratic sensibilities that informed Nadelman’s art during the most critical years of his career. Explains Haskell, “because of its potential for unusual finishes and its ability to replicate bronze, [galvano-plastique] allowed him to make art that was populist and affordable without being condescending—an issue that increased in importance to him as he became more committed to folk art” (Ibid, p. 157). Nadelman refocused on other media by 1928. Though his estate later authorized several casts of Seated Woman with Raised Arm to be produced in bronze, Nadelman considered his galvano-plastiques to be finished works in their own right and no bronze versions of these forms were cast during his lifetime. Other examples of the artist's work in galvano-plastique are in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.