Sir Jacob Epstein (10 November 1880 – 21 August 1959) was an American-British sculptor who helped pioneer modern sculpture. He was born in the United States, and moved to Europe in 1902, becoming a British subject in 1910.
Early in his career, in 1912, the Pall Mall Gazette described Epstein as "a Sculptor in Revolt, who is in deadly conflict with the ideas of current sculpture." Revolting against ornate, pretty art, he made bold, often harsh and massive forms of bronze or stone. His sculpture is distinguished by its vigorous rough-hewn realism. Avant-garde in concept and style, his works often shocked audiences. This was not only a result of their, often explicit, sexual content, but also because they abandoned the conventions of classical Greek sculpture favoured by European academic sculptors, to experiment instead with the aesthetics of art traditions as diverse as those of India, China, ancient Greece, West Africa and the Pacific Islands.Such factors may have focused disproportionate attention on certain aspects of Epstein's long and productive career, throughout which he aroused hostility, especially challenging taboos surrounding the depiction of sexuality. He often produced controversial works which challenged ideas on what was appropriate subject matter for public artworks. Epstein would often sculpt the images of friends, casual acquaintances, and even people dragged from the street into his studio almost at random. He worked even on his dying day. He also painted; many of his watercolours and gouaches were of Epping Forest, where he lived for a time. These were often exhibited at the Leicester Galleries in London.
Bronze portrait sculpture formed one of Epstein's staple products, and perhaps the best known. These sculptures were often executed with roughly textured surfaces, expressively manipulating small surface planes and facial details.
His larger sculptures were his most expressive and experimental, but also his most vulnerable.
Epstein was Jewish, and negative reviews of his work sometimes took on an antisemitic flavour, though he did not attribute the "average unfavorable criticism" of his work to antisemitism.After Epstein died, Henry Moore wrote a tribute in The Sunday Times which included a recognition of Epstein's central role in the development of modern sculpture in Britain. "He took the brickbats, he took the insults, he faced the howls of derision with which artists since Rembrandt have learned to become familiar. And as far as sculpture in this century is concerned he took them first.... We have lost a great sculptor and a great man.": 274