Gaston Lachaise

Last updated
Gaston Lachaise
Gaston Lachaise photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1934
BornMarch 19, 1882
Paris, France
DiedOctober 18, 1935(1935-10-18) (aged 53)
Education École des Beaux-Arts
Known forSculpture
Notable work
Standing Woman (1932)

Gaston Lachaise (March 19, 1882 – October 18, 1935) was a French-born sculptor, active in the early 20th century. A native of Paris, he was most noted for his female nudes such as Standing Woman . Gaston Lachaise was taught the refinement of European sculpture while living in France. He met a young American woman, Isabel Nagel, and the pair moved to America, where his craft reached maturity and he was influenced and inspired by American ways. Lachaise helped redefine the female nude in a new and powerful manner. His drawings also reflected his new style of the female form.


Early life and education

Born in Paris, Lachaise was the son of a cabinetmaker. [1] At age 13 he entered a craft school, the École Municipale Bernard Palissy, where he was trained in the decorative arts, and from 1898 to 1904 he studied sculpture at the École des Beaux-Arts under Gabriel-Jules Thomas. He began his artistic career as a designer of Art Nouveau decorative objects for the French jeweler René Lalique.

Move to America

Around 1902 or 1903 he met and fell in love with Isabel Dutaud Nagle (1872–1957), a married American woman of French Canadian descent (she eventually was divorced from her husband and married Lachaise). [2] When she returned to her home near Boston in 1904, Lachaise vowed to follow her. After briefly working for the master jewelry and glass designer René Lalique in order to pay for his passage, he arrived in America in 1906, never to return to his native land. For the next fifteen years he earned a living as a sculptor's assistant. In Boston he worked for H. H. Kitson, an academic sculptor producing primarily military monuments. [3] In 1912 Lachaise went to New York City helping Kitson in his studio at 7 MacDougal Alley. Soon after, he went to work as an assistant to the sculptor Paul Manship, while also creating his own art. His association with Paul Manship lasted until 1921; the work of both sculptors can be seen at Rockefeller Center.

In the early 1920s Lachaise bought a summer home and studio in Georgetown, Maine, Marsden Hartley being a frequent visitor. [4] In America, Lachaise matured into his unique style and portrayal of the female nude. He worked mostly in bronze. Lachaise's nudes were seen as strong yet gentle, husky but curvy, and seem to be referring to fertility as well. "The breasts, the abdomen, the thighs, the buttocks—upon each of these elements the sculptor lavishes a powerful and incisive massiveness, a rounded voluminousness, that answers not to the descriptions of nature but to an ideal prescribed by his own emotions." [5]


Floating Figure (1927, bronze), no. 5 from an edition of 7, Purchased 1978 by the National Gallery of Australia Gaston lachaise floating figure.jpg
Floating Figure (1927, bronze), no. 5 from an edition of 7, Purchased 1978 by the National Gallery of Australia
Standing Woman at UCLA, 1932 Standing woman2.jpg
Standing Woman at UCLA, 1932
Georgia O'Keeffe (marble), 1927, Metropolitan Museum of Art 'Georgia O'Keeffe', marble sculpture by Gaston Lachaise, 1927, Metropolitan Museum of Art.jpg
Georgia O'Keeffe (marble), 1927, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Lachaise's personal idiom was developed during the first decade of the twentieth century with his encounter with Isabel. But it was not until his arrival in New York, that he realized his principal manifesto: his concept of "Woman" as a force of nature based on his wife's image. In his own words he described his many sculpted images of the female nude in contrasting terms: vigorous, robust, and massive yet in repose, serene and eternal.[ citation needed ]

In 1918, (eight months after he became an American citizen and married Isabel), Lachaise began his meteoric rise in the New York art world with his first solo show, held at the Bourgeois Galleries, which featured his challenging, heroic-sized Woman (Elevation). Lachaise's most famous work, Standing Woman (modeled 1928–30, copyrighted 1932, cast ca. 1933, Museum of Modern Art, New York), typifies the image that Lachaise worked and reworked: a voluptuous female nude with sinuous, tapered limbs. Lachaise was also known as a portraitist. He executed busts of famous artists and literary celebrities, such as Georgia O'Keeffe, John Marin, Marianne Moore and Lincoln Kirstein. In 1935 the Museum of Modern Art in New York City held a retrospective exhibition of Lachaise's work, the first at that institution for any American sculptor. [6]

Gaston Lachaise was an extremely versatile sculptor, technically expert in several media and accomplished with both ideal and commercial effort. His work was chosen for several major New York architectural commissions – including the AT&T Building and Rockefeller Center. And the more commercial aspect of his sculptural output – the production of fountains and decorative bronzes, primarily depicting animals – offered him some financial relief. Yet Lachaise's artistic legacy is closely bound to his depictions of "Woman." His late works, which are extreme in their manipulation of his ideal of the human anatomy, are erotic and emotional and avant-garde.

Called by ARTnews the "greatest American sculptor of his time",[ citation needed ] he played a critical role in the birth of American Modernism, pushing the boundaries of nude figuration with his innovative explorations of the human body.

His artistic career was cut short by his unexpected death from acute leukemia on October 18, 1935.


Public collections holding his works include:


In 1963, Lachaise's widow Isabel established the Lachaise Foundation with the intention of perpetuating Gaston Lachaise's the artistic legacy for the public benefit. [7]

In 2015, the Lachaise Foundation entered an agreement with Findlay Galleries, and since then the gallery has been the exclusive representative of the Lachaise Estate. [8]

See also

Related Research Articles

Alberto Giacometti Swiss sculptor and painter (1901–1966)

Alberto Giacometti was a Swiss sculptor, painter, draftsman and printmaker. Beginning in 1922, he lived and worked mainly in Paris but regularly visited his hometown Borgonovo to see his family and work on his art.

Jacques Lipchitz American and French sculptor

Jacques Lipchitz was a Cubist sculptor. Lipchitz retained highly figurative and legible components in his work leading up to 1915–16, after which naturalist and descriptive elements were muted, dominated by a synthetic style of Crystal Cubism. In 1920 Lipchitz held his first solo exhibition, at Léonce Rosenberg's Galerie L'Effort Moderne in Paris. Fleeing the Nazis he moved to the US and settled in New York City and eventually Hastings-on-Hudson.

Paul Manship American sculptor

Paul Howard Manship was an American sculptor. He consistently created mythological pieces in a classical style, and was a major force in the Art Deco movement. He is well known for his large public commissions, including the iconic Prometheus in Rockefeller Center and the Celestial Sphere Woodrow Wilson Memorial in Geneva, Switzerland. He is also credited for designing the modern rendition of New York City's official seal

Jacob Epstein American-British sculptor

Sir Jacob Epstein was an American-British sculptor who helped pioneer modern sculpture. He was born in the United States, and moved to Europe in 1902, becoming a British subject in 1911. He often produced controversial works which challenged ideas on what was appropriate subject matter for public artworks. He also made paintings and drawings, and often exhibited his work.

The year 1912 in art involved some significant events and new works.

Frederick William MacMonnies American-French sculptor and painter

Frederick William MacMonnies was the best known expatriate American sculptor of the Beaux-Arts school, as successful and lauded in France as he was in the United States. He was also a highly accomplished painter and portraitist. He was born in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn, New York and died in New York City.

Charles Grafly American artist

Charles Allan Grafly, Jr. was an American sculptor and teacher.

Sculpture of the United States

The history of sculpture in the United States begins in the 1600s "with the modest efforts of craftsmen who adorned gravestones, Bible boxes, and various utilitarian objects with simple low-relief decorations." American sculpture in its many forms, genres and guises has continuously contributed to the cultural landscape of world art into the 21st century.

Elie Nadelman sculptor

Elie Nadelman was a Polish-American sculptor, draughtsman and collector of folk art.

The year 1932 in art involved some significant events and new works.

Charles Despiau French sculptor

Charles Despiau was a French sculptor.

Philip Grausman is an American sculptor who continues to push the limits of the time-honored portrait in art.

John Storrs American artist

John Henry Bradley Storrs, also known as John Bradley Storrs and John H. Storrs, was an American modernist sculptor best remembered for his art deco sculptures that examined the relationship between architecture and sculpture.

Nude (art) work of art that has as its primary subject the unclothed human body

The nude, as a form of visual art that focuses on the unclothed human figure, is an enduring tradition in Western art. It was a preoccupation of Ancient Greek art, and after a semi-dormant period in the Middle Ages returned to a central position with the Renaissance. Unclothed figures often also play a part in other types of art, such as history painting, including allegorical and religious art, portraiture, or the decorative arts.

Susan Macdowell Eakins American photographer

Susan Hannah Macdowell Eakins was an American painter and photographer. Her works were first shown at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where she was a student. She won the Mary Smith Prize there in 1879 and the Charles Toppan prize in 1882. One of her teachers was the artist Thomas Eakins, who later became her husband. She made portrait and still life paintings. She was also known for her photography. After her husband died in 1916, Eakins became a prolific painter. Her works were exhibited in group exhibitions in her lifetime, though her first solo exhibition was held after she died.

Konstanty Laszczka Polish artist

Konstanty Laszczka was a Polish sculptor, painter, graphic artist, as well as professor and rector of the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków. Laszczka became the Rector of the Academy in 1911, however, for family reasons he resigned from this function in 1912.

Mitchell Fields American artist

Mitchell Fields was a Romanian-born American sculptor, known for his life-size sculptures, as well as for his portraits. Fields's works belong to the schools of Realism and Social Realism.

The Stettheimer Dollhouse is a two-story, twelve-room dollhouse, created by Carrie Walter Stettheimer (1869-1944) over the course of twenty-five years, from 1916 to 1935. It contains miniature art made for the dollhouse by artists like Marcel Duchamp, Alexander Archipenko, George Bellows, Gaston Lachaise, and Marguerite Zorach.

<i>Standing Woman</i> sculpture by Gaston Lachaise

Standing Woman is a bronze sculpture by Gaston Lachaise.

Vincent Glinsky Sculptor, art educator

Vincent Glinsky was an American artist.


  1. "Biography". Boston: The Lachaise Foundation. Archived from the original on 2010-03-14. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  2. "Art: Radiating Sex & Soul". Time. January 17, 1964.
  3. "GASTON LACHAISE". Portrait of the Art World. Washington, D.C.: National Portrait Gallery. Archived from the original on 2010-03-14. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  4. Seguinland artists exhibition at the Portland Museum of Art, summer 2011 | Maine Travel Maven Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  5. Kramer 1967, p. 13.
  6. "GASTON LACHAISE, SCULPTOR, 53, DIES", The New York Times , New York, p. 17, 1935-10-19, ISSN   0362-4331 , retrieved 2010-01-10
  7. "Lachaise Foundation". Retrieved 2018-11-17.
  8. "A Look at Gaston Lachaise's Voluptuous Female Nudes | artnet News". artnet News. 2017-01-24. Retrieved 2018-11-17.


Further reading