A collection of photographs and papers relating to the life and work of Jacob Epstein

Scope and Content

The collection includes three albums of photographs of Epstein's work, c.1930s, and a collection of over 1000 loose photographs and negatives recording Epstein's work, his studio, source material for portraits, Epstein at work, his ethnographic collection, a portrait photograph of Walt Whitman, and personal photographs of Epstein, his family and friends. Many of these are by named photographers. There are thirty letters to Jacob and Kathleen Epstein, 1904-1967, including letters from Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore and T. S. Eliot; a set of personal papers which include an American passport, 1902, and Epstein's certificate of naturalisation dated 1911; printed ephemera consisting of invitations to openings or events relating to Epstein; and a list of plaster casts donated to museums after Epstein's death. The archive also has a selection of Epstein's tools, his cap, glasses and toolbox; his annotated copy of Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal, probably given to him by his first wife, Margaret, in 1904, which contains a drawing by the artist; a press cuttings album mainly with extracts from the journal The New Age, 1914-1916, and three further press cuttings, 1961-1973.

Administrative / Biographical History

Jacob Epstein was born on 10th November 1880 in New York City, and was a prolific portrait sculptor. Epstein produced many important carved works in the earlier part of 20th century, and continued to carry out numerous major commissions into the late 1950s. Epstein studied at the Art Students’ League in New York from 1894 to 1902, and then in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1902.

In 1905 Epstein moved to London and in December 1910 he became a naturalised British citizen. Epstein came to public prominence in 1908 due to the controversy over his carvings on the façade of Charles Holden’s British Medical Association building, London. Other earlier important works include ‘Rima’ (memorial to W.H. Hudson) in Hyde Park, unveiled in 1925, as well as ‘Day’ and ‘Night’ on the London Transport Headquarters building, 1928-9. Epstein received various honours, including a knighthood in 1954.

Epstein continued his artistic practice to the last and died of a heart attack at his home in London, 19 August 1959. A memorial service took place at St Paul's Cathedral on 10 November and a large memorial exhibition was held at the Edinburgh festival, and subsequently at the Tate Gallery in 1961.

Access Information

Available to all registered researchers. The Archive is open by appointment only.

Other Finding Aids

Please consult the HMI Archivist for further information.

Archivist's Note

Archives Hub description was created by Katie Gilliland

Biographical information from t'Sir Jacob Epstein', Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011 [http://sculpture.gla.ac.uk/view/person.php?id=msib2_1204841120, accessed 19 Nov 2015]

Related Material

Related archives available at the Henry Moore Institute:

  • 18.1991: Sketchbook of 'Meum' (Dorothy Lindsell-Stewart) by Jacob Epstein
  • 45.1990: Contract for the tomb of Oscar Wilde made between Jacob Epstein and Robert Ross, and two related letters
  • 1998.4: Four photographs of Epstein's ethnographic collection used in the Arts Council's exhibition catalogue 'The Epstein Collection of Primitive and Exotic Sculpture' taken by Geoffrey Ireland
  • 1998.25: Photographs of Jacob Epstein's work
  • 2000.47: Research files of Richard Buckle on Jacob Epstein
  • 2002.65: One drawing of fifteen studies of hands [perhaps of a baby or a child]
  • 2002.78: Three press cutting albums relating to Jacob Epstein's carvings
  • 2002.72: Photographs of Jacob Epstein's etnographic collection by Geoffrey Ireland