Jacob Epstein: Babies and Bloomsbury
30 January – 10 May 2015
Epstein’s bronzes and drawings of babies and children, including members of his own family.
Jacob Epstein was a distinguished – although controversial – portrait sculptor; his public commissions faced criticism for being too explicit, too modern, too radical. As his career developed he turned his focus to a more personal subject matter, creating drawings and sculptures of his own and other children. In his autobiography he explained his fascination with portraying infants – an often-neglected subject for sculptors. He said: ‘To work from a child seemed to me the only work worth doing... I plan some day to do only children. I think I should be quite content with that, and not bother about the grown-ups at all'.
Epstein's family was by no means conventional: his three daughters and two sons were born of three different extra-marital relationships. The eldest, Peggy Jean, was the child of Epstein and his lover, Meum Lindsell, but his wife – who generally tolerated his extra-marital relationships – agreed to bring her up as her own. Epstein was particularly fascinated with the child, stating that he ‘was prepared to go for the rest of my life looking at Peggy Jean, and making new studies of her’. Portraits of Peggy Jean completed over more than a decade are on display including Sick Child from 1928.
Epstein’s relationship with his three middle children, Theo, Kathleen and Esther, was more distant but he made studies of them all, as shown here.
Many of the sketches were completed at the Epstein family home in Bloomsbury, just a few minutes walk from the Foundling Hospital (now the museum) where they are on display.