Drawings of Gaston Lachaise
National Arts Club, Marquis Gallery
New York, NY
December 17, 2018—January 25, 2019

Drawings by Gaston Lachaise (1882–1935)

Lachaise’s drawings have "the same flow of movement, the same serene power as his stones."
Gilbert Seldes, "Hewer of Stone," New Yorker, 4 April, 1931.

Gaston Lachaise was a French-born American Modernist sculptor for whom drawing was an outlet and practice of utmost importance throughout his career. He studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and looked to the ancient masters for inspiration, often from different and distant cultures: the 'Venus de Milo,' the Egyptian carvers and the art of Southeast Asia. From his own time, he considered the best sculptors to be Lehmbruck, Epstein, Brancusi and of course, Rodin. At
20, he met an American woman, Isabel Dutaud Nagle (1872–1957) of French-Canadian descent. She was married, living in Paris to oversee her young son’s education. Lachaise spied her walking along the bank of the Seine. They fell in love and Lachaise followed Isabel across an ocean to the United States, where they eventually married. "You, who give me the Goddess I seek to express in all my work, have made me a God. You inspire my every moment," Lachaise wrote in 1915–16.

Lachaise resisted the temptation to repeat forms that grow out of the contemplation of great works like the 'Venus de Milo'. Rather, he would create 'a new Venus' with no loss of Vigor (his preface to Exhibition of American Sculptures, Bourgeois Galleries NY, 1919). Today, Lachaise’s reliefs grace the building of Rockefeller Center, his sculptures are in collections around the world, and his drawings continue to amaze, a link to his life's work. Unbelievably prolific, Lachaise would draw himself to sleep, themes of woman dancing, reclining, stretching, repeating and evolving endlessly. In the morning Isabel would pick up the best ones for the artist to sign.

This selection of drawings intends to show Lachaise's development as an artist. From the quiet lyrical sketches of the first decade, figures in a mythical landscape, many embracing women — inspired by the dances of Isadora Duncan or, as Virginia Budny suggests, the symbolist poetry of Verlaine? — to the exuberant drawings from the '30s, characterized by wild gestures and surest line, all show Lachaise's ever-increasing intensity of feeling for Isabel, indeed for 'Woman,' as he referred to her, seen everywhere, even in the Burlesque theatres on Houston Street and in Harlem. The group of exquisite sketches on the west wall are exhibited here for the first time, early incarnations of what Lincoln Kirstein called Lachaise's "gifts of imaginative metamorphosis."


Installation view.

Reclining Nude, 1920-24 (LF 117) bronze, 4 1/2 in. high, 4/12 cast in 2001 by the Modern Art Foundry, NY.

Lachaise Foundation