Lithuanian-born French innovative sculptor.
Against the wishes of his father, a Jewish building contractor who wanted his son to study engineering, Lipchitz went in 1909 to Paris, where he studied sculpture and developed a life-long interest in ancient, medieval, and primitive art. His work was vital, mannered, and representational. He was recalled to Russia for military service in 1912 but later discharged because of ill health. In 1915 he began to produce constructions of geometric forms, which were some of the first sculptures to apply the principles of cubism in three dimensions. He also anticipated a technique of later sculptors, such as Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, when in 1916 he bored a hole in his Man with a Guitar to bring space within the sculpture.
Lipchitz became a French citizen in 1925. The same year he abandoned the discipline of cubism and returned to a more expressive and exuberant style in such works as the monumental Joie de Vivre (1927), which was probably the earliest revolving sculpture. He also began to produce more abstract open-work constructions of strips and bands of metal; for example, The Couples (1929).
Mythological, often violent, themes and more solid monumental forms, as in Prometheus (1937), are typical of his work after 1930. In 1940 he fled from Paris, arriving in New York in 1941. Increasingly rich in symbolism, his postwar work expressed the suffering and pathos of the previous decade in European history. His later years brought him numerous public commissions and saw continued experimental work, such as the semiautomatics of 1956, which were modelled by touch alone.