U.S.A. - GREENWICH-CONNECTICUT - Face & Figure: The Sculpture of Gaston Lachaise


Gaston Lachaise (1882 – 1935)

Man Walking (Portrait of Lincoln Kirstein),
Bronze, 23 1/2 in. high.
Bruce Museum Collection 2010.01

Gaston Lachaise (American, b. France, 1882–1935) was more than a gifted sculptor of the human body, he was one of the finest portraitists of his age. Key examples of the artist’s work, many on loan from leading museums, private collections and the Lachaise Foundation, will reveal the full range of Lachaise’s vision, with special attention to the fascinating interchange between figural work and portraiture.

Gaston Lachaise was the extraordinary exception that proves the rule. In contrast to nearly every other modern artist in the early years of the twentieth century, for whom Paris was the modernist Mecca, Lachaise abandoned France for the United States. Perhaps not surprisingly, the young Parisian’s voyage to our shores was motivated by something other than pure esthetic drive: he was in passionate pursuit of a married American woman, Isabel Dutaud Nagle (1872–1957), who would become his obsession, his muse, and eventually his wife.

It is no exaggeration to say that Lachaise’s oeuvre is a sustained elaboration of his intense feeling for Nagle’s beauty. The series of great nudes that secured his reputation—standing on tip-toe, dancing, reclining, floating, and even levitating—are meditations on flesh and space in the immediate wake of Auguste Rodin’s myriad brilliant formulations. Lachaise was probably lucky to have crossed the Atlantic in what seemed to be the wrong direction in 1906 (living first in Boston and then New York), as he thereby became the leading representative of French art implanted in the New World.

"Lachaise was that singular being of today and yesterday," American painter Marsden Hartley wrote in 1939, "the worshipper of beauty . . . beauty was his meat and bread, it was his breath and music, it was the image that traversed his dreams, and troubled his sleep, it was his vital, immortal energy."

Bruce Museum   22.09.2012 - 06.01.2013

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