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Jacques Lipchitz
Painters and sculptors are two decidedly different types of people. Oh, from time to time, painters may "play" with three-dimensional forms of some kind, and it's not unheard of for a sculptor to dabble and daub in paint, sometimes even slapping a little of the stuff on some of his sculptural work, but by and large, in art history, there is very little successful crossover. Picasso did both, but then Picasso did it all. Ditto for Michelangelo. And a few painters, such as Leonardo and Degas, had their sculptural work made out to be ever so much more than it really was on account of their painting proficiency. Perhaps with this in mind, one early twentieth-century artist went so far as to claim there was no difference between painting and sculpture. His name was Jacques Lipchitz.

Lipchitz was born in 1891, a Lithuanian who came to Paris in 1909. Given the timing of his arrival in the art capital of the world at the time, he could scarcely have helped but be influenced by Picasso and Cubism. However, he seemed little effected by Picasso's analytic period, but instead gravitated toward the synthetic element as Picasso moved from taking apart masses into reconfiguring them. Lipchitz's Still Life with Musical Instruments carved in stone, would seem to be a direct, sculptural counterpart to either of Picasso's Three Musicians.

Despite their differences, sculptors are often influenced by painters, as was Lipchitz. Art movements more often than not have their beginnings in paint. Lipchitz seems to have been of the opinion that anything anyone can paint, he could sculpt. Some of his later work is much less Cubistic, such as his Figure, a massive, seven-foot-tall bronze now in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Still, there is the mark of Picasso in his later years indelibly stamped upon it. Though Picasso obviously didn't need one (he had enough of his own), Lipchitz seems to have been his sculptural alter-ego. What Lipchitz seems to have meant in claiming there was "no difference" in painting and sculpture, was not in the formal, literal sense, but figuratively speaking, from a creative point of view. What he was saying is that in conceiving a work of art the difference between painting and sculpture is merely one of choosing a favourite medium--nothing more.

Contributed by Lane, Jim
2 August 1999


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