Ossip Zadkine Research

This page presents a selection of recent discoveries made by the Zadkine Research Center.

The articles feature new biographical elements as well as the stories of novel identifications and localisations of works. 
We endeavour to update and add new finds as regularly as possible.

Ossip Zadkine - Untitled - 1917 - Watercolor and ink on paper - zadkine.com

Ossip Zadkine (1888-1967)


Untitled - 1917

Watercolor and ink on paper

40 x 31.5 cm


The Zadkine Research Center discovered this work in 2005 in a Swiss private collection. Ossip Zadkine created this watercolor in 1917 when he was admitted into the 1st Foreign Regiment of the French army, and served in a nurse and stretcher bearer section. This important early work is now in the collection of the Musée Zadkine in Paris.

Ossip Zadkine - La mariée - circa 1932  Terra cotta - zadkine.com

Ossip Zadkine (1888-1967)


La mariée - circa 1932

Terra cotta

Height: 42 cm


Here we are in 2016 in front of a stunning terracotta head by Zadkine, that was until then unknown. 
We knew very little about it but hadn’t the slightest doubt about its authenticity as Zadkine’s hand is so blatant without overdoing it. Although this type of head is rather rare in the artist’s production, we could make some parallels with other sculptures and notably with Pensées, another unique terracotta head that we had recently discovered.

The research on its provenance and its peregrinations have, as far as they are concerned, stressed the need for an effective investigation, that is still in progress in to order glean more details.
The starting point was the name of its last owner, Vandevelde (without any mention of his first name).
We then asked the help of someone who got to us for the identification of another work by Zadkine some years before. This person knew that his family, and more specifically his mother was close to the Vandevelde family in the 1930s. Indeed, the two families were linked by several weddings and had in common two companies, one named “Chantier Houiller” and the other “Porte-plume”.

They also commissioned various times the construction of villas and shops to the architect Adrien Blomme, who at that time (end of 1920-1930’s in Belgium) frequently invited Zadkine to create bas-reliefs. – including for its own house avenue de la Nation in 1929 (today the avenue Franklin Roosevelt) and for the monumental work of the cinema Le Métropole in 1932.

In 1932, the industrial Aimé Vandevelde commissions for his villa located in the North of Brussels, a bas-relief to Zadkine representing Hercules and the Nemean lion (cf. I. Jianou 1964, p. 90). We suppose that he made the acquisition of La Mariée during the same period. Luckily, our contact kindly asked Aimé Vandevelde’s grand-daughter if she had any remembrance of it. She replied in the affirmative indicating she always saw the head of Zadkine on the fireplace of her grandfather’s large property in the outskirts of Brussels, in Neerom Hof, Wolvertem (this property of 25Ha has today been converted into a public park).

Aimé Vandevelde’s grand-daughter ignores however what happened to the sculpture after the death of her grand-father in 1964.

Ossip Zadkine - Oiseau - 1929 - Bronze - zadkine.com

Ossip Zadkine (1888-1967)


Oiseau - 1929


Height: 81 cm


Margarett Sargent (Mrs. Q. A. Shaw McKean) (1892-1978)
Acquired directly from the artist.
Jonas van Straaten, New York, NY, USA

Paris, Salon d’Automne, 1929, no. 1786
The Arts Club of Chicago, USA, 1931, no. 24 (loaned by Mrs. Q. A. Shaw McKean)
Brussels, Palais des Beaux Arts, 1933, no. 100

Haesearts, 1939, planche VIII
Ionel Jianou, Zadkine, Arted, Editions d’Art, Paris 1979, no. 183, page 72
Sylvain Lecombre, Zadkine, L’œuvre sculpté 1994, no 223, page 269 and page 209

Only two versions of Zadkine’s bronze sculpture ‘Oiseau’ are known today.

Ossip Zadkine - Homo sapiens - 1932  Patinated plaster - zadkine.com

Ossip Zadkine (1888-1967)


Homo sapiens - 1932

Patinated plaster

210 x 141 x 110 cm


Regained after many years languishing in the storage of the Museum of Art of Philadelphia, Homo Sapiens is not only one of our most important troves, it also experienced a certain form of resurrection of which we are particularly proud.

Welcomed in Europe at the Zadkine Research Center, cleaned and refreshed by our team of specialists, Homo Sapiens can as of now be brought to light and presented to the public again.

Its story is characteristic of its era.

Zadkine is for the first time invited to exhibit in New York by the Brummer gallery in 1937. He wishes to present the American public with what he then considers to be his major works. Selected among 33 sculptures and starring together with his Orphée, is his Homo Sapiens (1933) in elm wood. 205 x 135 x 95 cm – A monumental sculpture.  As mentioned in the artist’s autobiography « Le Maillet et le Ciseau » (p. 124), « when the sculptures were too big, he would cast them in plaster and transport them in parts ». As a matter of fact, it would have been too costly to transport the Homo Sapiens in solid wood cross the Atlantic. The plaster version was thus minutely executed. Zadkine cautiously inscribed the mention “ORIGINAL” on the bottom of it.

After the show, Ossip Zadkine and Joseph Brummer decide to donate their “American” Homo Sapiens to the Museum of Art of Philadelphia. They will exhibit it twice, once in 1937 and in 1940, it then remained sleeping behind closed doors until 2015.

Its “French” homolog, Homo Sapiens (1933) in wood was on its hand acquired by the Museum of Modern Art of Paris in 1947.

Ossip Zadkine - Orphée et les nymphes - 1936  Plaster relief - zadkine.com
Ossip Zadkine in front of Orphée et les nymphes - 1936  Plaster relief - zadkine.com

Ossip Zadkine (1888-1967)


Orphée et les nymphes - 1936

Plaster relief

186 x 246 x 40 cm


We had as sole starting point a black and white photography dating from the 1930s picturing Ossip Zadkine proudly posing in his overalls and with his pipe in front of a monumental and elegant bas-relief, which keenly piqued our curiosity. Where would that work now be? Was it hidden? Was it covered? Destructed? Scattered in pieces? What were its original dimensions? When was the work precisely realised? And for whom?

All our interrogations would eventually get an answer through the Zadkine Research Center’s website. In September 2009, the daughter and heiress of the last landlord of the residency where the bas-relief was ultimately located, contacts us to get more information on this work that was now part of the household’s furniture. She also presents us with a preparatory sketch to enrich our archives.

We now know that Orphée et les Nymphes had been commissioned to Zadkine by his friend, tenor and director of the Brussels' Opéra, Joseph Rogachewski (Mirgorod, 1891-1985, Brussels). The delicate white bas-relief was to adorn a dedicated space – between two columns – that was envisioned during the elaboration and construction of his apartment, Avenue de l’Orée, Brussels, by the architect Stanislas Jasinski in 1936. But the path of men and artworks rarely remain immobile. In 1953, Rogachewski moves out just in the outskirts of the Belgian capital and decides to take Orphée et les Nymphes with him to place it on top of his new home’s fireplace. It is precisely where we have found it, in 2009, one year after the death of the ultimate landlord.

It was decided to decouple the work out of its wall again. This extremely sensitive operation has been minutely realized and has been handed over to our skilful restorer.

In 2015, Tjerk Wiegersma walked pass the avenue de l’Orée, where the apartment which originally Orphée et les Nymphes was made for. As luck would have it, he meets the exact apartment’s new landlords at the feet of the building and converse about this work by Zadkine. They didn’t know what work it was nor what had become of it. This afternoon encounter resulted very cheerful and positive. There is the occasional serendipity or somewhat happy coincidences.

Ossip Zadkine - Nu debout - 1938 - Wood - zadkine.com

Ossip Zadkine (1888-1967)


Nu debout - 1938


92.8 x 25 x 16.5 cm


This work is an outstanding example of Zadkine’s passion for wood carving. The standing figure was a central motif throughout the artist’s career and these works have been described as ‘true poems in wood’. As the art critic Jianou states: ‘These statues stare at us with their whole bodies. A quiver of sensuality, desire and purity animates the slightly rounded surfaces of these young tall, slim, lissom, highly polished and occasionally lacquered bodies, over which light fairly streams’.

Ossip Zadkine - Le poète - 1936 - zadkine.com

Ossip Zadkine (1888-1967)


Le poète - 1942

Virginia marble

34.5 x 23.8 x 29 cm

Former collection Ruth Stephan (1910-1974), American poet


Ossip Zadkine created this beautiful marble head during his exile in the United States in 1942. We discovered this poet hidden in the school basement in Illinois in 2011. In 1944 Ruth Stephan who acquired this sculpture directly from Ossip Zadkine in 1943 and who was the daughter of the founder of the Walgreen’s pharmacy chain, donated this marble head to a school she attended.

Ossip Zadkine - Pensées - 1936  Terra cotta - zadkine.com

Ossip Zadkine (1888-1967)


Pensées - 1936

Terra cotta

37 x 30 x 33 cm


Pensées, the large head in terracotta of 1936 came to us as an unhoped discovery.

A discovery in the broadest sense as it was previously unreferenced and unidentified. Unhoped since we came across the sculpture rather incidentally although always with our eyes widely open.

Pensées has been acquired in Brussels in the late 1930’s by a Belgian art critic, directly from the artist. The acquirer/ collector soon after leaves Europe for the United States of America carrying with him Pensées as well as Femme à la Colombe, another terracotta by Zadkine. These two sculptures would accompany him and his wife all along their lives and would, more precisely, be displayed with pride in their living room until the wife’s death in 2015.

This terracotta head has most probably been realised in Brussels when Zadkine, in the 1930s, would frequently visit the Belgian capital as he was commissioned a great number of bas-reliefs by architects such as Adrien Blomme (Cinema Métropole, private villas, boutiques) and had important exhibitions to prepare, notably at the Galerie Centaure as well as a major retrospective at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles in 1933. At that time, the artist would be using the ovens of the studio Laduron to finalize his terracotta and his bas-reliefs, we can assume that Pensées also comes out from that same studio.

Until today, only 6 terracotta sculptures of heads from the 1930’s have been outnumbered. Some of them originate from the casts of sculptures in order to make small editions of them in terracotta (maximum 3 copies).  As opposed to these, Pensées doesn’t derive from a cast. Ossip Zadkine has directly modelled the clay. It is therefore a unique piece.