22.08.1891, Druskeniki, Grodno Province (now Druskininkai), Lithuania – 26.05.1973, Capri, Italy
The son of a building contractor, Lipchitz entered the higher secondary school in Ilno after finishing the commercial college in Białystok. He studied at the art school at the same time. After breaking with his father he went to Paris using funds from his mother. He was reconciled with his father after registering as a visiting student in Jean-Antoine Injalbert’s sculpture studio at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts. He soon moved to the class of Raoul Verlet at the Académie Julian, and studied at the Académie Colarossi. After becoming friends with the artists in the School of Paris, he became interested in Cubism and primitive art and began collecting the plastic art of Africa and Polynesia. First exhibited in the Salon d’Automne and the salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1913.
Lipchitz produced Cubist works from 1915 and in 1920 held his first solo exhibition at the gallery L’Effort Moderne; the first monograph about him was published, written by Maurice Raynal. In 1922 Albert Barnes acquired several sculptures by Lipchitz and commissioned five bas-reliefs for his house in Merion, Pennsylvania.
He became a French citizen in 1924 and lived outside Paris in a studio-house designed by Le Corbusier. The following year, he began using emptiness and spatial pauses to produce ‘transparent’ sculpture. His first retrospective exhibition was held at the La Renaissance gallery in Paris in 1930.
Lipchitz sent works to the Russian section of the Exhibition of Modern French Art in Moscow (1928). He visited the USSR in 1935 to meet relatives and fulfilled a commission for a portrait of Dzerzhinsky. He donated a version of Joie de vivre to the State Museum of New Western Art. In 1936–37 he was commissioned by the French government to make the statue Prometheus for the entrance to the science pavilion at the Paris Universal Exhibition, for which he received a gold medal. Because of the German occupation of Paris, Lipchitz moved to New York in June 1941. Here he produced one of his most tragic sculptures, Mother and Child. After returning to Paris for a short time in 1946, he then settled permanently in New York. He represented France at the 26th Venice Biennale (1952) and took part in Documenta 3 in Kassel (1964). The last major work by Lipchitz was Tree of Life which was erected in Jerusalem in 1978. Retrospective exhibitions were held in the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum in New York (1954) and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1958). He became an American citizen in 1958. Lipchitz’s memoirs were published in 1972: My Life in Sculpture. He became a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur in 1946. He is buried in Jerusalem. F.B.