Jacob Epstein’s Mutilated Sculptures | Lost Art

The remains of Jacob Epstein’s earliest and most controversial sculptures can be found in the heart of central London.

The Gallery of Lost Art was an online exhibition that told the stories of vanished artworks. Whether destroyed, stolen, discarded or erased some of the most significant artworks of the last 100 years have been lost and can no longer be seen.

When installed on the facade of the new British Medical Association headquarters in the Strand in London in 1908, Jacob Epstein’s eighteen nude statues were among the most hotly debated artworks in Britain.

Although the details of the carvings forty feet high were not easily seen from ground level, the nudity of Epstein’s figures provoked immediate protests.

In the end, however, it was not moral or aesthetic arguments that proved the undoing of Epstein’s carvings. Instead, thirty years of acid rain, caused by London’s smog, weakened the stones and in 1937 part of one sculpture became detached, falling into the street below. The sculptures were immediately checked and all protruding sections of the figures – including faces, shoulders and arms, and feet – were chiselled away, despite Epstein’s protests as what he saw as blatant vandalism and the revenge of traditionalists who disliked the sculptures.

More info: http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/gallery-lost-art-jacob-epstein

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