Monday, January 30, 2012

I Met Jacques Lipchitz When I Was Eight Years Old

                                           L to R- MAF employee, J. C. Spring, J. Lipchitz, J. Spring, property of MAF

The day that I met Jacques Lipchitz was a Saturday. My father had taken me to work that day and introduced me to Mr. Lipchitz, who smiled and said hello. My first memory was watching him work on a wax sculpture. He was wearing a beret and had a metal tool in his hand. When he touched this tool to the wax sculpture, smoke would rise and some of the wax would melt. Later on, I found out the tool was made of cast iron and came in many different sizes. When heated, it stayed hot for quite a while. He used this tool to retouch the wax pattern that my father’s foundry had made for him. It was fascinating to watch him work. I did not know then but in about fifteen or so years Jacques Lipchitz would become an important person in my life, helping me with many foundry skills and affording me an opportunity to grow as an artisan while working on his pieces.

I remember when the CBS show Let’s Take a Trip filmed an episode at Modern Art Foundry in 1957. I had a small part demonstrating how to pin a core nail hole closed and worked directly with Mr. Lipchitz on his patina for the sculpture Pierrot. A few years ago, we transferred the episode to DVD; I cannot believe how young we all looked.

Most importantly, Mr. Lipchitz was at the foundry when my father told me I was needed to take over the patina work. Mr. Lipchitz was casting a number of small pieces at this time. He was very patient with me because he knew the colors he wanted and how to achieve them. He would not settle for good. He wanted it to be right. This was a benefit for me because I learned how to color and to please a customer. It was about one year before I was comfortable. Eventually, Mr. Lipchitz would allow me to patina his bronzes without his supervision.

Mr. Lipchitz developed a work pattern that allowed him to spend half the year in the United States and half the year in Italy. He would send us a letter before returning to New York. The letter would tell us which plasters to retrieve from his studio in order to prepare waxes for his arrival in the warmer months. In addition, we would have bronzes ready for him from his last trip. It was an exciting time at Modern Art Foundry. Mr. Lipchitz once told me he loved returning to New York City each year. When the plane landed and he heard the announcement from the pilot welcoming them to New York, he'd say, "'there is like electricity in the air, I get charged up again. It is so, exciting and there is so much happening in NYC!'”

I said goodbye to Mr. Lipchitz for the last time in May 1973, 16 days before he died.  He was at the foundry one last time before leaving to go back to Italy. Oddly, about a week later I saw him on 2nd Avenue and 51st Street in Manhattan. I was waiting at a red light and across the busy street; I saw Mr. and Mrs. Lipchitz walking. Of course, he had his blue beret on but the light changed and I did not have a chance to wave hello.

A week or so later he died while on vacation at Capri’s Blue Grotto, his usual place for relaxation when returning to Italy by ship. He was buried in Jerusalem.

Jacques Lipchitz taught me many things. We had a business relationship and a friendship. I was very sad when he passed away. It was 33 years since our first meeting. I felt I had lost a friend, a teacher, and a second father.

MY LIFE INSIDE ART, Bob Spring's reflections on his fifty plus years of experiences in the art casting business, is being catalogued by Patricia Bradshaw.  Patricia is coordinating an on going collection process that includes interviews, journal writings, and recorded memories for publication in print, digital, and sound mediums. The above excerpt has been edited by Jeffrey Spring.

1 comment:

  1. This is so interesting. Thankyou so much for sharing.
    I just discovered this blog. Can't wait to read more about mr. Spring's experiences in the art world.