Sir Jacob Epstein (British/American, 1880-1959)
Portrait Bust of Rita Romilly
Unsigned, identified on a presentation plaque and with a partial label from James
Bourlet & Sons affixed beneath the plinth.
Bronze with brown patina, approximately 12 x 9 x 6 in. (30.5 x 22.9 x 15.2 cm), on a stone plinth.
Condition: Surface grime.
Provenance: Ex-collection of Lewis H. Weinstein, Boston, Massachusetts, to a private collection by family descent.
N.B. Epstein began his training at the Art Student's League in New York and continued at the Académie Julien in Paris. His frequent visits to the Louvre inspired his lifelong interest in ancient and primitive sculpture. He moved to London where he became a citizen in 1907, and his first major commission was for the British Medical Association headquarters in The Strand (now Zimbabwe House).
After World War I, Epstein's interests shifted away from angular semi-abstraction to more figurative forms and he began modeling portrait busts, such as the present work. Epstein received wide acclaim for his portraits, enjoying commissions from such notable figures as Joseph Conrad, G. B. Shaw, and T. S. Eliot. (1)
Epstein was introduced to the American stage actress Rita Romilly (d. 1980) during his brief period in New York between 1927 and 1929. (2) Romilly taught at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts but also privately where she coached Paul Robeson, a friend of Epstein's. (3) In his autobiography, Epstein fondly recalled Romilly's studio where "artists and writers gathered, and Paul Robeson sang, and there was no formality of dress or speech." (4)
(1) Hopkins, Justine. "Sir Jacob Epstein." The Oxford Companion to Western Art. 15 Oct. 2008.
(2) Buckle, Richard, ed. Epstein: An Autobiography. London: Vista Books, 1963. Pg. 128.
(3) "Rita Romilly Benson Dead at 79: Actress Taught at Arts Academy." New York Times, April 7, 1980. Pg. D11.
Plinth approx. 4 x 7 1/2 x 6 1/2 in., with minor chips to edges and corners, screw mounted to plinth.