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The Misery of Job

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Ossip Zadkine
Smolensk 1890 - Neuilly-sur-Seine 1967
1914
elm
123 x 84 x 139 cm
Inventory number 2338

In 1914, Russian-born visual artist Ossip Zadkine created a group of four sculptures. Together they reflect the frustrations and problems that he experienced as a young artist. The inspiration for this work came from the book of Job in the Old Testament, more specifically the passage where Job's friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar support him in the trials he is subjected to. The work has a strikingly sensitive quality, which is enhanced by the wood grain and the warm colour of the elm. The sculptures also exude a sense of monumentality and strength. Zadkine reduces the figures to their most concise and telling form. The blocks of wood determine their postures and gestures. Clearly Zadkine, like the Cubists and the Expressionists, was also influenced here by primitive African sculpture.

After Rodin

Like his great French example Auguste Rodin, the young Zadkine executed this group of sculptures in an unconventional way. He treats them not as an ensemble, but as separate figures. They are introverted characters, isolated by their doubts and lack of understanding. After World War I, they were positioned in a fixed configuration on a low base. During that period, Zadkine maintained close contacts with the Belgian arts scene. In 1936, shortly after his trip to New York, where he would subsequently settle, he donated The Misery of Job to the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp.

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