Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Study of Sunita and Anita, c.1926-8 

Sir Jacob Epstein (1880-1959)

Study of Sunita and Anita, c.1926-8, Sir Jacob Epstein
Pencil on Paper
20th Century
19 1/8 x 21 ¼ ins., 48.5cm x 54cm
Private Collection, UK.
Philadelphia Museum of Art.
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Few artists of the twentieth century understood the human form as intimately as Jacob Epstein, whose portraits, in both sculptural and painterly form, represent some of the most accomplished figure studies within the history of British art.

As is frequently the case with portrait painters, their best works are often those of family members or close friends with whom they are familiar, and this work, which portrays Epstein’s regular models Amina and Mariam Patel (known as ‘Sunita’ and ‘Anita’ respectively), is a fine example of this. Epstein first met the sisters, who were born in Kashmir, in 1924 at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley, and subsequently invited them to live in his house and model for him. Between 1926-8 Epstein made a series of pencil studies of them in this reclining position, and they also modelled for a number of sculptures, including the life-size bronze Mother and Child sculpted in 1926 [Riverside Church, New York].

Epstein was born in the United States, although he only discovered his artistic identity on his move to London in 1905. His manner, which was at first inspired by an only partially-digested melange of Renaissance, Classical and modern French sources, was in maturity recognised as one of the most original and versatile talents of twentieth century British sculpture. Epstein produced numerous public and private works, including the statue of Rima [Kensington Palace Gardens], the colossal statue of Lucifer [Birmingham Museum and Art Galleries] and Jacob and The Angel [Granada Television on loan to Tate Britain].
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