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Inclined Head of Kneeling Woman, 1911

Wilhelm Lehmbruck
German, 1881-1919
18-1/2 x 17-1/2 x 11-1/2 in. (47 x 44.5 x 29.2 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

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At a moment when many artists were producing brash abstractions, Lehmbruck—like his friend Maillol—remained devoted to the human form. Elongated, purified, even gently abstracted, Lehmbruck’s figures are nevertheless whole and movingly human. With an inward gaze and a graceful neck, this bust epitomizes the artist’s mature style. It was cast from the upper portion of a full-length sculpture, The Kneeling Woman, today widely regarded as Lehmbruck’s most important contribution to the history of art. His decision to cast the bust separately may have been influenced by Rodin’s similar practice, but the resulting object—in which spiritual detachment and a delicate sensuality are carefully balanced—more clearly recalls busts of the Virgin Mary modeled in terracotta in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance.

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