Jacob Epstein (1880-1959)

Baby Asleep, c. 1904

SKU: 11353
Bronze with a brown patina, mounted on a marble plinth base

Height – 12cm
Width – cm


Quentin Bone; Thence by descent
Possibly, London, Adelphi, Twenty-One Gallery, Drawings and Sculpture by Jacob Epstein, December- January, 1913-14 (another cast); London, The Leicester Galleries, The Sculpture of Jacob Epstein, February-March 1917, no.20 (another cast ill. as Babes Head)
B. Van Dieren, Epstein, John Lane, London, 1920, pl.XIX (another cast ill.); A. Haskell, The Sculptor Speaks, Jacob Epstein to Arnold Haskell. A Series of Conversations on Art, Heinemann, London, 1931, p.166; R. Black, The Art of Jacob Epstein, World Publishing Company, New York and Cleveland, 1942, no.5, pl.68 (another cast ill.); R. Buckle, Jacob Epstein Sculpture, Faber & Faber, London, 1963, p.19, pl.10 (another cast ill.b&w); E. Silber, The Sculpture of Epstein, Phaidon, Oxford, 1986, p.119, no.3 (another cast ill.b&w)

Epstein was born in New York, and studied in Paris from 1902 until 1905 before settling in London. Opinions differ about the date of ‘Baby Asleep’, which is one of his earliest sculptures. It was either made during his time in Paris, or shortly after his arrival in London. Epstein made a second version of the piece, called ‘Baby Awake’, in which the child’s eyes are open. Very little of the artist’s work from this period has survived.

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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.


Jacob Epstein (1880-1959)
Baby Asleep, c. 1904