Genesis: Jacob Epstein

With my ‘nom de plume’ being Rock Drill, you would be right if you assumed that I had a fondness for Jacob Epstein. At Liverpool’s Bluecoat, there is an exhibit:In the Peaceful Dome, where the centrepiece is a 1931 Epstein statue entitled ‘Genesis’ .

Carved from marble, this beautiful work depicts a woman in the later stages of pregnancy. When it was exhibited here in 1931, it generated a great deal of controversy as well as a sizeable £1000 for the Bluecoat with people charged sixpence to view.

The face is clearly inspired by the African tribal art so beloved of artists, such as Picasso, and Matisse in the early part of the 20th century. The neck and upper torso are restricted while the hands, belly, thighs and bottom are exaggerated and seem to rise out of the earth. She is the epitome of ‘Earth Mother’ and fecundity; a theme that Epstein would continually revisit in his sculpture and paintings and a complete contrast to what most would expect from a nude. Of the statue, Epstein said, “She is serene and majestic, an elemental force of nature. How a figure like this contrasts with our coquetries and fanciful erotic nudes of modern sculpture”.

The statue ended up becoming an attraction in Madame Tussauds in Blackpool following all the controversy and its importance to the Bluecoat inspired their request for donations to bring it back home. She looks very well in her new surroundings and was a lovely surprise on this trip.

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