Pierre Levai has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Seated Figure comes from a series of sculptures created by Jacques Lipchitz between 1916 and 1920. From the beginnings of the sculptor’s fully mature, high cubist period, seen by some as an early peak phase in a career that was then only five years old–Lipchitz had just turned twenty-five. This is one of the first examples in which the figure and its base are entirely integrated, and the form may be related to Picasso’s Cubist watercolours of figures seated in armchairs from 1915-16. With the eye positioned clearly on the head, this figure is more legible than the more abstracted renderings of the body from Lipchitz’s prior years, indicating his prioritorial shift towards the clarity of form. From the starting point of the eye, we can detect the curves of the shoulder, arms and legs. The complex and dramatic three-dimensional construction of curved and linear forms encourages the viewer to walk around the sculpture rather than observe it from a fixed point.
During the previous year, Lipchitz’s friendship with Picasso inspired him to convert entirely to cubism in his work. In a flush of enthusiasm, Lipchitz quickly went on to create sculptures that displayed a rigorously architectural interpretation of synthetic cubist syntax, emphasising extreme verticality and layered rectangular planes. The resultant constructed sculptures had the appearance of mechanical devices, and their rising, elongated forms reminded some of Gothic cathedrals. In his memoir My Life in Sculpture Lipchitz wrote, ‘I carried my findings all the way to abstraction,’. He was worried, however, that ‘I had lost the sense of the subject, of its humanity,’ he said. ‘I had gone too far.’ Such was the state of his concern that during the summer of 1915 the sculptor experienced ‘a kind of emotional crisis...I felt for a time I had lost my way’ (J. Lipchitz and H.H. Arnason, My Life in Sculpture, New York, 1972, p. 26).
At this juncture Lipchitz’s material circumstances fortuitously improved, easing his distress. Léonce Rosenberg had stepped into the vacuum left when Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, the cubists’ chief dealer, was forced as a German national to leave France at the beginning of the First World War. Rosenberg made sales arrangements with many of the cubists for his own Galerie de l’Effort Moderne. Lipchitz signed a contract with Rosenberg in early 1916; under its terms the sculptor received a monthly stipend of 300 francs and had his expenses covered, for which he turned over to Rosenberg everything he made. Although Lipchitz was still in debt, his day-to-day financial worries were over. He could now afford to carve in marble and cast in bronze. Lipchitz’s newfound security during the difficult wartime period and renewed self-confidence in his work are reflected in the great series of cubist figures he then undertook, which occupied him until the end of the decade. Musicians served as his male theme; the bather became his chief female subject.