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WORK OF THE WEEK | 3 March 2020

CAG.456 Jacob Epstein, Deirdre, 1942, bronze, 45.5 x 38.5 x 39 cm. Purchased, Jackson's Ltd., 1955 (Gibson Bequest Fund). © the artist's estate.

Did you know that a version of our WORK OF THE WEEK – Deirdre (1942) by Jacob Epstein – was once owned by actor Peter O’Toole?

Purchased as part of the Gibson Bequest in 1955, our version is properly titled Third Portrait of Deirdre (Leaning Forward). A bronze sculpture with green patina (oxidized film), it is a study of the Epsteins’ housekeeper and cook who worked for them from 1939 until she joined the War Office in 1942. Described as ‘exceptionally pretty,’ she subsequently emigrated to Australia following her marriage. The artist’s previous iterations on his subject date from 1941-42 and are known as First Portrait of Deirdre (with Arms) and Second Portrait of Deirdre (in a Slip).

Jacob Epstein (1880-1959) is credited as a pioneer of modernist sculpture and was an influence on Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. His work nevertheless drew criticism, often antisemitic, for its overtly sexual imagery and for abandoning Classical models. Regularly making portraits of those he knew, or even of strangers, Epstein is perhaps best known for Rock Drill (1913-15) and as the sculptor of the ‘infamous’ grave monument to Oscar Wilde at Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.

Deirdre (1942) by Jacob Epstein can be viewed for two more weeks in THE GIBSON BEQUEST: Home & Away, which must close on 17 March 2020.

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