Elie Nadelman, Two Circus Women, 1930

Elie Nadelman
Two Circus Women, 1930
Papier mache on plaster armature with internal bamboo braces
H 62” x W 42” x D 18”

A leading modernist sculptor of the first half of the twentieth century, Elie Nadelman pursued a highly individual path. Although this Polish-born artist was among the first to practice abstraction in sculpture in Paris, where he was a prominent member of the avant-garde, he later devoted himself to the human figure. The source of his work ranged from early classicism to Asian and Egyptian sculpture to American folk art. Nadelman relocated to New York in 1914 and became well established in the New York art world, appreciated for his work in bronze, marble, wood, and more.

Whereas Nadelman’s early work tended to present sleek, stylized figures, in the mid-twenties his style shifted. Working with papier mache over plaster armatures, he began to focus on images of female circus performers with bulbous contours and indistinct facial features, as seen in Two Circus Women, 1930. Although this work met with little favor in its own time, it was greatly appreciated by Philip Johnson. Two decades after Nadelman’s death, Johnson used this sculpture as the maquette for a work three times its size carved in white Carrara marble for the atrium of his and John Burgee’s New York State Theater at Lincoln Center.

• Acquired in 1949 from Artist’s Estate
• Used as cast for bronze copy for Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1951
• Used as pointing model for monumental marble sculpture commissioned for New York State Theatre, 1964
• Extensively repaired by Joseph Turnbach, 1969 and 1981
• Conserved by Daria Keynan; project funded in part with a matching grant from the Historic Sites Fund, 2010

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