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Poland 1882 – United States of America 1946

  • also worked in France

Horse c.1911-15 Materials & Technique: sculptures, plaster

Primary Insc: No inscriptions
Dimensions: 92.8 h x 72.6 w x 27.2 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1980
Accession No: NGA 80.2285
Image rights: © Elie Nadelman Estate
  • acquired by purchase or commission by Helena Rubinstein (1870-1965), between 1911 and 1916, or later;
  • sold at auction of Helena Rubinstein Collection, Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, 20 April 1966, lot 15;
  • when bought by Robert Schoelkopf Gallery, New York;
  • from whom bought by the Australian National Gallery, September 1980

The plaster Horse has survived as one of the most important works from Nadelman's early period in Paris. Its fluent geometry, that taut answering of curve and countercurve, created, as Nadelman claimed for his sculpture, 'a new life which had nothing to do with nature'.1 The plump, buoyant profile of the horse also anticipates the painted wooden carvings of society figures which Nadelman later made in the United Sates.

The Horse was included in a comprehensive exhibition of Nadelman's work at Paterson's Gallery, London, in April 1911. The entire exhibition was purchased by Helena Rubinstein, herself Polish, like Nadelman, and already famous as a founder of the modern cosmetic industry.

A reduced version of the plaster Horse was possibly cast as early as 1914.2 The number of casts and the foundry concerned are unknown. Examples of this cast are in the collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC, and the Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona.3 Another small variation, in bronze, with the horse rearing back, was purchased for the Dial Collection from Galerie Flechtheim, Berlin, 1923, and is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Following their purchase of the plaster horse in 1966, the Robert Schoelkopf Gallery, New York, ordered seven full-scale bronze casts to be made (numbered 0 to 6) by the Modern Art Foundry, New York. Of these casts, one is in the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, and another in the Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore. The remainder are in private collections.

Michael Lloyd & Michael Desmond European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery 1992 p.104.

  1. Nadelman made this statement in a catalogue introduction which he wrote for an exhibition of his drawings organised by Alfred Stieglitz for the little gallery at the Photo-Secession, New York, in 1910. Nadelman, however, recalled his drawings from the gallery for his exhibition at Paterson's Gallery, London; in 1911. Nevertheless, Stieglitz published his statement in Camera Work, no. 32, October 1910, p.41.
  2. The size of this reduced version is 31.7(h) x 29.8(w) x 8.3(d) cm (12½ x 11¾ x 3¼") without base. Lincoln Kirstein has suggested that the first casting of the reduction in bronze occurred 'prior to 1914', although 'subsequent to 1955, at least six more were cast by the Modern Art Foundry' (Lincoln Kirstein, Elie Nadelman, New York: Eakins Press, 1973, p.305, cat. no. 181).
  3. The authors are grateful to Valerie J. Fletcher, Assistant Curator, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, for information on the whereabouts of the reduced bronze casts.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra