Sir Jacob Epstein (1880-1959)
Near Baldwyns Hill
Watercolour and touches of gouache
22 x 17 inches
Exhibited: No. 4, as title, from the Epping Forest Series
at Arthur Tooth and Sons, 1933
Provenance: Bought from the above exhibition by Commander G.L.Lowis and by direct descent to the current vendor.
Click on image to enlarge
"I could go there with my daughter and we did not have to walk far before seeing something worth painting. As usual with me, what started as a mere diversion became in the end a passion, and I could think of nothing else but painting. I arose to paint and painted until sundown .."
A very fine example from Epstein's Epping Forest series which was exhibited to great acclaim at Arthur Tooth and Sons Galleries in 1933. In good original condition having been bought directly from the exhibition by the vendor's grandfather, Commander Geoffrey Lowis who after his naval service went on to write Fabulous Admirals and Some Naval Fragments.
A similar example from the series can be found in the Tate Gallery, with the following description,
‘In technique, the Epping Forest series show an affinity with the plein air painting of the French and British Impressionists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Working with watercolour and gouache..... Epstein could work speedily to capture the fleeting effects of nature; carrying his paints and brushes into the Forest, he would pin a sheet of paper to his board, using a chair as a makeshift easel. In temperament, however, the Epping Forest works have something of the mystical quality associated with the landscapes of Samuel Palmer (1805-1881). Just as Palmer romanticised the landscape around his home at Shoreham in Kent, for example in A Hilly Scene c.1826-8 (Tate N05805), Epstein evoked here his own vision of a pastoral idyll. Untouched by the outside world, Epstein's Forest is never peopled, despite its great popularity as a beauty spot. For him, it was a mystical place whose 'luxuriance filled his mind with curious visions and imaginary tales inspired by nature, its trees, its creatures' (Gardiner, p.329). His idealisation of the Essex countryside was lent further weight by the popular romantic mythology surrounding the Forest, with its prehistoric encampments, its history as a royal Tudor hunting ground and haunt of illustrious highwaymen, and its utopian status as a free, unenclosed area of land dedicated to the people by Queen Victoria.’
Sir Jacob Epstein made his name as a sculptor of monuments and portraits, and as an occasional painter and illustrator. In his lifetime he championed many of the concepts central to modernist sculpture, including 'truth to material', direct carving, and inspiration from so-called primitive art, all of which became central to twentieth-century practice.
Epstein was born on 10 November 1880 in New York, of Polish-Jewish parentage. He attended art classes at the Art Students League c.1896 and then went to night school c.1899 where he began sculpting under George Grey Bernard. On the proceeds of illustrating Hutchins Hapgood's The Spirit of the Ghetto (1902) he was able to go to Paris and spent six months at the École des Beaux-Arts, and afterwards studied at the Académie Julian. Epstein settled in London in 1905 and became a British citizen in 1907. He met Picasso, Brancusi, Modigliani in Paris in 1912-13. He then returned to England and worked near Hastings from 1913 to 1916.
Epstein became a founding member of the London Group in 1913, and that same year had his first solo show at the Twenty-One Gallery, Adelphi, London. Thereafter he exhibited mainly at the Leicester Galleries. After 1916 he lived and worked in London for the rest of his life. He briefly visited New York in 1927, to attend his one-man show at the Ferragil Gallery. The Arts Council honoured him with a retrospective exhibition at the Tate Gallery in 1953. He was knighted in 1954 and died in London on 19 August 1959.
Mary Horlock, June 1997, Tate Gallery website
Other works by the artist on our website: