Untitled (Woman) (a double-sided work), circa 1933
Signed G Lachaise (ll)
Graphite and ink on paper
24 1/4 x 19 inches (61.5 x 48.3 cm)
As aptly stated by his friend and fellow artist Marsden Hartley (1877-1943), Gaston Lachaise "saw the universe in the form of woman." (1) Indeed, from about 1910 onward, Lachaise sought to represent a universal, "fundamental force" (2) in the form of an increasingly voluptuous, goddess-like woman. Late in his career, as seen in the present drawings, these numinous images at times took on a fierce aspect that implies an implacable creative and procreative power. These works were especially inspired by ancient images of divinities studied, for example, at the Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City; and by the overwhelming vitality of fellow Americans encountered by Lachaise in daily life.
Most of Lachaise's drawings, like these, were executed as pleasurable ends in themselves. The present drawings were done on one of the large sheets of paper favored by him late in his career. He evidently began drawing his image with a pencil on one side of the sheet; reinforced that drawing in ink; then traced the composition with a pencil onto the other side of the sheet, making subtle changes as he worked; and finally signed his name at the lower left. The final version exhibits a vigorous yet harmonious interplay between the forceful illusion of the woman's body and the delightful two-dimensional pattern of the overall image. The playful, ornate lines used to describe certain features in this final version suggest a date of about 1933.
When he drew, Lachaise often essayed the same composition again and again, seeking ever more interesting ways to present his theme. This practice can be seen by comparing the present drawings to Female Nude, Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 2006.31.34; (3) Female Nude, Fogg Museum, Harvard Art Museums, no. 1995.183; (4) and Female Nude, Princeton University Art Museum, no. x1984-109. (5)
Virginia Budny, author of the forthcoming catalogue raisonné sponsored by the Lachaise Foundation
(1) Marsden Hartley, "Thinking of Gaston Lachaise," Twice a Year, nos. 3-4 (Fall-Winter 1939/ Spring-Summer 1940), p. 260.
(2) Interview with Lachaise, New York Herald-Tribune (New York, N.Y.), January 14, 1935, p. 7.
(3) Lisa Mintz Messinger in Abstract Expressionism and Other Modern Works: The Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, exhibition catalogue, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, pp. 37-40, no. 10, illustrated.
(4) Jeanne L. Wasserman, Three American Sculptors and the Female Nude: Lachaise, Nademan, Archipenko, exhibition catalogue, Cambridge, MA: Fogg Art Museum, pp. 44, 45, no. 24, illustrated.
(5) "Acquisitions of the Art Museum 1984," Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University, vol. 44, no. 1 (1985), pp. 33, 35, illustrated.
C Property from a Vermont Private Collection
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