SECOND PORTRAIT OF PANDIT NEHRU (BUST)
SECOND PORTRAIT OF PANDIT NEHRU (BUST)
Conceived and cast 1948, from an edition of 3
Height 15 1/4 in. (39 cm.)
Murray S. Greenfield Gallery, New York
Irving Feldman, New York (acquired from the above in 1975)
Bowman Sculpture, London
Fifty Years of Bronzes and Drawings by Sir Jacob Epstein, Leicester Galleries, London, June 1960, no. 45 (another from the edition).
R. Buckle, Jacob Epstein Sculptor, London, 1963, pp. 324-5, pl. 324, illustrated.
E.P and B.A. Schinman (eds.), Jacob Epstein. A Catalogue of the Collection of Edward P. Schinman, New Jersey, 1970, p.80, illustrated.
Evelyn Silber, The Sculpture of Epstein, Oxford, 1986, p. 204, no. 410, illustrated.
Born in New York, Sir Jacob Epstein attended art classes at the Art Students League, and eventually turned to sculpture as his eyesight deteriorated. He attended night school in 1899, where he studied under George Grey Bernard. Later, after two years at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the Academie Julian in Paris, Epstein moved to London to set up his own sculpture studio. He was a founding member of the London Group, an association of writers and artists promoting modern art in England. During this period, Epstein came into contact with leading contemporary artists, including Picasso, Brancusi and Modigliani and met eminent figures from around the world. As a result, he received numerous commissions which included famous personalities such as Rabindranath Tagore, Albert Einstein, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the Maharaja and Maharani of Baroda, amongst others.
Epstein first met Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (1899-1964) when Nehru visited the United Kingdom for the Commonwealth Conference of 1948. The timing was especially important, as Nehru had recently been appointed the first Prime Minister of the newly independent nation of India, and it was India's first official visit to their former ruler's country. Adding to the historical importance of the event was the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi a few months earlier, making the timing even more poignant.
Written records by Epstein provide details of this first meeting with Nehru. 'He phoned me, although we had never met, expressing a wish to visit me at my studio. Nothing was said about a portrait, but whilst talking to him it occurred to me that we were wasting a rare opportunity and I asked him immediately to start sitting... At this time, soon after the assassination of Gandhi, Nehru seemed burdened with the cares of office, and it was in this mood that I conceived this sombre portrait.' (www.bowmangallery.com)
The critic Stephen Gardiner also describes this first meeting. 'Nehru ended up as a sitter purely by chance; he had never met Epstein, and wanted to see his studio while he was over; he was so keen to do so that he waited half-an-hour for the sculptor, outside before he arrived. As they were talking together, Epstein became interested in his remarkable looks, and realising that a rare opportunity was being wasted, at once asked him to sit. In three days, with a session of one hour only starting at 9 a.m., the head was finished: Epstein called it a sketch, but it was a superb sketch, capturing exactly the Indian delicacy of the subject's bone structure.' (Stephen Gardiner, Epstein: Artist Against the Establishment, London, 1992, p. 397)
Epstein has perfectly captured Nehru's intense gaze and solemn expression; giving the viewer a rare glimpse into the politician's inner persona while displaying his intuitive ability to reach the very spirit of his subject.
In some of the literature relating to this bronze, the work is usually dated to 1949, but Epstein himself refers to its completion in October 1948.
Another version of the sculpture is in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London.
About The Artist:
SIR JACOB EPSTEIN (1880 - 1959)