Happy birthday, Lucifer

70 years ago yesterday, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery took charge of a magnificent statue by Jacob Epstein, named ‘Lucifer’

Towards the end of the second world war, Epstein was becoming more fascinated by the story of the fallen angel.  Inspired by a quotation from Milton:

He above the rest

In shape and gesture proudly eminent

Stood like a tower, his form had not yet lost

All her original brightness, not appeared

Less than archangel ruined and the excess

Of glory obscured. 

‘Lucifer’, tall, bronze and with an androgynous look, stands guard over the Round Room at the BMaG:

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The usual technique of creating large scale bodies and working separately on the heads, meant that Epstein used the features of one of his favourite female models: Sunita.  The delicate, raised foot came from the biblical quotation in Isaiah: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!”

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The finished sculpture was exhibited at the Leicester Museum and Art Gallery in 1945 and was purchased by the brother of the intrepid explorer, TE Lawrence, Professor AW Lawrence.  Strangely, despite Epstein’s fame, a number of renowned institutions turned down the gift of the statue, until finally, the cities of Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham all offered to house this magnificent work.

Their loss was certainly our gain!  Lucifer had a birthday party on Friday evening and a splendid time was had by all.

For more information:

Daemons and Angels: A Life of Jacob Epstein by June Rose

 

 

Night in the Museum

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery has two additional spaces – Waterhall and Gas Hall. Both beautiful buildings and, at Gas Hall, is a super exhibition curated by the conceptual artist Ryan Gander:

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Basic premise is that all of the figurative works gaze upon another work of art and that work of art has an element of blue in it, which is a trademark of Gander’s.  This may seem a little strange, perhaps even self-indulgent but, it works.  It was great fun.  When you wander around the space, and you do find yourself doing this, look at the eyeline of the statues: they are looking, doing, and being a part of the artwork itself.  It was actually quite thrilling to see Epstein’s Kitty staring intently:

or my beloved Rock Drill absorbed by the vibrations from Barrie Cook’s Dean:

It was such fun and made me smile going round. Most of the artists I hadn’t heard of before and probably won’t look at any of their other work, but this was such a pleasure to go round, I would say that it doesn’t matter if you know anything about art, with this, it was just about the ‘looking’.