Elie Nadelman combined an intellectual, often witty perspective with a contemporary idiom and masterly technique to produce individual and important sculpture, such as Kneeling Dancer (Dancing Figure). As in his best works, the artist’s approach was to create an uncomplicated connection of curves and forms with little ornamentation. With his characteristic economy of detail, in Kneeling Dancer (Dancing Figure), Nadelman conveys the grace and purity of the female figure in an authentically modern manner.
Born in Poland in 1882, Elie Nadelman studied in Warsaw and Munich before establishing a sculpture studio in Paris. His years in France from 1906 to 1914 propelled the artist to unprecedented success with revered exhibitions, established patronage and critical acclaim. Nadelman was visited, befriended and admired by leading Modern artists, such as Pablo Picasso, Constantin Brancusi and Amedeo Modigliani, and patronized and reviewed by the Parisian avant-garde, including André Gide, Guillaume Apollinaire, the Natanson brothers and Leo and Gertrude Stein. Indeed, Leo Stein admired Nadelman’s work so much that he brought Picasso to the young sculptor’s studio in 1908. In 1914, at the outset of World War I, Nadelman set out for New York with the assistance of Helena Rubenstein, the cosmetics entrepreneur and notable patron of Modern Art. The artist was already known in the United States from his participation in the 1913 Armory Show, his advancement by the art historian Bernard Berenson and the publication of his drawings and statements by Alfred Stieglitz. As a result, Nadelman was quickly swept into New York bohemian circles and established close relationships with other American artists, including Florine Stettheimer, Paul Manship and George Bellows.
Nadelman modeled Kneeling Dancer (Dancing Figure) circa 1916-1917 during an incredibly important period of his career, as his growing reputation in New York was leading to several prominent commissions and museum accessions. Originally executed in marble for William Goadby Loew’s estate in Old Westbury, Long Island, the figure was then cast in three-quarter scale in bronze and exhibited at Nadelman’s triumphant 1917 New York exhibition at Scott & Fowles. This show, which possibly included the present cast, helped further establish Nadelman in his new country, inspiring critic Henry McBride to write of the display, “It is, in a word, refined. It is in the highest degree a before-the-war art. It is culture to the breaking point… It seems to breathe out all the rare essences that were brought by the wise men from all the corners of the earth to be fused by the Parisians…into the residuum called ‘modern civilization,’ which now, so many millions are dying for… In this sculpture, the past and the present are blended almost cruelly” (H. McBride, quoted in L. Kirstein, The Sculpture of Elie Nadelman, New York, 1948, p. 45).
Kneeling Dancer (Dancing Figure) is a beautifully balanced work that, as McBride asserted, blends past and present to stunning effect. The sculpture transforms a classical figure dancing in traditional dress into a streamlined, modern arrangement of curving line and form. Each limb and balletic movement appears perfectly counterbalanced by its opposite. Indeed, Kneeling Dancer (Dancing Figure) was specifically highlighted by a reviewer of the Scott & Fowles exhibition as “an architectonic composition… an inward circulation of muscular relations to which the externals of the figure necessarily and unfailing adapt themselves” (H. Mcbride, “Nadelman and Manship,” New York City American, November 29, 1917).
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This report was prepared by Tatti Art Conservation, Inc.: The piece is in overall very good condition and has been recently cleaned and given a protective wax coating. The original patina presents as light to medium brown with areas of spotted green, specifically at the skirting and at the back.