Flenite Relief

Epstein, Sir Jacob

A British sculptor who created massive monumental figures and many portrait sculptures in bronze. Jacob Epstein was born in America, the son of Jewish-Polish immigrants who ran a business on the Lower East Side of New York City. As a teenager in New York, Epstein worked in a bronze foundry during the day and studied drawing and sculpture in the evenings.  In 1902 he moved to Paris and studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, where Rodin was his tutor. After visiting Britain in 1905, Epstein decided to settle in London and in 1911 he became a British citizen.  He was knighted in 1954. In  London, Epstein became part of the avante garde art scene but his first important commission, executed in 1907-8, and consisting of eighteen large nude figures, was destroyed on grounds of obscenity. His work continued to meet with disapproval from the public in the early years of the twentieth century.   His Flenite Relief of 1913 has been described on the Art Gallery’s website as a ‘provocative sculpture’, linking birth with death through the sculpture’s overall shape as a gravestone.  There are two sides to the sculpture, which cannot be viewed at the same time.  The work is intended to be read not in terms of the back and front of the same object but as a story normally separated by time. It is one of about six carvings made by Epstein on the theme of birth between 1910 and 1914.  The term ‘flenite’ was invented by Epstein to convey the importance of material quality by combining the words ‘flint’ and ‘granite’ to emphasize the hard quality of the stone. The Flenite Relief left Britain in 1966-67 but in 2006 it was brought over from the United States, where it had been in the collection of Epstein’s nephew.  It was put on view at the Leeds City Art Gallery and purchased in that year with the aid of a contribution from the LACF.


Relief sculpture in serpentine stone

Other pieces in our collection

Blean Colliery

Holmes, Sir Charles J.

Drawing with watercolour, 25.8 x 34.4

Red Circle

Thubron, Harry

c. 1964, Relief sculpture in wood, 68.5 x 71 x 21

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