Gaston Lachaise


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(b Paris, 19 Mar. 1882; d New York, 18 Oct. 1935).

French-born sculptor who emigrated to the USA in 1906 and became an American citizen in 1916, one of the pioneers of modern sculpture in his adopted country. He settled first in Boston, then in 1912 moved to New York, where he became assistant to Paul Manship. Lachaise was a consummate craftsman in stone, metal, and wood (his father was a cabinetmaker), but his most characteristic works are in bronze. He did a number of portrait busts remarkable for their psychological insight and he earned a good deal of his living from decorative animal sculptures, but he is best known for his female nudes—monumental and anatomically simplified figures, with voluptuous forms and a sense of fluid rhythmical movement (Standing Woman, 1912–27, Whitney Mus., New York). Their smooth modelling links them with the work of Nadelman, who was also at this time helping to lead American sculpture away from the 19th-century academic tradition, but Lachaise's figures are more powerful than those of Nadelman and have an overt sexuality that has caused them to be compared with the nudes of Renoir. The inspiration for the figures—Lachaise's embodiment of female beauty—was Isabel Dutaud Nagle, a married American woman with whom he fell in love when he was about 20; she was the reason for his move to America and he was eventually able to marry her in 1917.

Subjects: Art.

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