Sunday, February 17, 2008

Another lost voice

Josef Chaikov
(self portrait with wife)

Thanks to
Misha's extensive library,
I've just been introduced to this
almost forgotten Russian-Jewish sculptor
of the last century.

A rather stern/sad looking fellow,
isn't he ?

(more pictures have been posted here )

Here's a head
done in 1912.
So.. he's 24,
he's doing naturalism,
Rodin is the role model.

And now we jump a decade
to 1923.

We all know what happened to Russia
in the intervening years,
and our sculptor
has moved to Paris
to become a modernist.

note: he's an exact contemporary of Marc Chagall,
and both of them would have been
in Paris at that time.

And he's a near-contemporary of
Jacques Lipchitz (born 1891)
who stayed with Cubism a bit longer.

for whatever reasons,
Cubism didn't suit him.

the kind of modern
heavy figure that
was considered progressive at that time.
(the year is 1925 - the same
year that this piece was made by
the British sculptor, Frank Dobson,
another exact contemporary)

And here's an heroic, classical torso
he made in 1927.

I think he would have had
a big career working for the National Socialists
(if he weren't a Russian Jew)
(comparable to this piece by Arno Breker from 1929)

The above two ceramics
are from 1934,
and it appears that,
for whatever reason,
our sculptor is
back in the U.S.S.R.

These pieces are a world apart
from the fashionable decorative pieces
being made elsewhere in Europe.

And what a curious piece
is that big "bathing beauty" !

She's hardly a fantasy pin-up girl,
but more like someone
to whom you've been married
for 20 years.

and here's one of my favorite pieces,
done in 1933,
presumably something for a grade school ??

Every grade school should have
this kind of sculpture



This 1938 transformation
of the 1928 piece shown above it
might serve
as a textbook
for social realism,
the official style
of Stalinist Russia.

In 1928 - it was boys having fun
In 1938 - it was soldiers at recreation



And now,
he doing what Soviet sculpture does best:
the portraits of men.

Making the ordinary heroic.


But everything isn't all that serious.
(even in this horrendous year of Russian history)

I'm fond of this precarious balance
(and it was chosen as the cover photo
for his book)

No date was given for this drawing,
and I admit
that on it's own
it doesn't stand out.

But it does show
his sense of human vulnerability
which makes all his sculpture
more inviting.

Moving on, now, to his post-war work,
here's a portrait from 1951.

Here's one from 1960.

these later portraits seem more relaxed,
and the men more capable of kindness

... and capable of sensitivity

(this portrait is from 1969,
and this man feels like he could be
an American)

In these later years - 1968
(the sculptor is now 80)
we find this Jewish theme

and it's interesting to compare this
with Jewish sculpture done in Israel or America.

This one seems to say:
"I have survived!"

For a complete change,
here's a decorative piece
from 1967.

I doubt they had ever heard of each other,
but this piece feels so similar
to something
Milton Horn might have done around the same time.

and this piece, from 1970,

feels similar to
yours truly made 35 years later.

Well --that's it.

The history of Europe
in the 20th C.,
as told by the life's work
of a Soviet sculptor.

I don't think he was a very happy man,
but he was a strong one.

And he survived.


Blogger GEM said...

He may not have been the happiest of men (and who is to know this?) but he was an astute observer of people with a great sensitivity for character. One could write a story for the later portrait of the man with the smug, self-satisfied expression, cock-comb haircut - the sculpture goes beyond rendering of physiognomy and "likeness". thanks for this posting. G and GEm

February 19, 2008  
Blogger chris miller said...

I can't explain what makes a portrait feel real (when we have no way of knowing what the sitter was really like) -- but yes -- these feel like real men of their time and place. (and BTW, Gem, your drawings feel quite real too)

February 19, 2008  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

Though I think whimsy a dangerous tendency, I like the two that feel faintly whimsical--the woman and child and the acrobats. Perhaps someone who appears strong and stern is better able to wield whimsy. I also like some of the later portraits...

February 22, 2008  

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