Jacques Lipchitz fled to Toulouse when German troops occupied Paris in 1940. He soon left France for good and went to the US, where he settled in New York. Like Feuchtwanger, he used biblical themes in his sculptures.
In his depiction of sacrifice, Lipchitz gave a lot of attention to Hagar. While the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac dominates most of North American and Western European literature, the story of Hagar’s sacrifice was the archetype of the first idea of sacrifice. Hagar was Sarah’s maid, an Egyptian slave-girl, who she directed to bear a child with her husband Abraham, becoming her surrogate. Hagar’s son Ishmael was the first-born of Abraham and was among the first to be circumcised as the sign of the covenant made between Abraham and Deity.
When Sarah eventually gave birth to her son, she could not bear to see Hagar’s son share her husband’s affection and legacy with her son Isaac. She drove Hagar away, saying to her husband, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.”[Genesis 21:10 (NRSV)]. Sarah sent her away to strive in the desert with a skin of water. When the water ran out Hagar could not bear to see the child die so she laid him underneath the bushes. Biblical accounts of the story described how the Deity heard her distress, visited her and argued with her. This was the first account of a person communicating with the Deity without getting struck down, hurt in any way, or having their hair turn white. The Deity showed her a source of water, which was called Zamzam. This water, a promise of life, was accompanied with a promise that Ishmael will live, prosper and be the father of a mighty nation.
This linocut print of Offering almost did not make it to my first solo exhibit because it looks more like a school exercise. But it is the very first piece of art I have rendered, and it is the story of Hagar. I was asked if it was Mary, cradling Jesus as in the Pieta.
Jacques Lipchitz’s “Mother and Child” was loaned by the AGO for viewing at the second floor landing at the Four Seasons Centre from fall 2008 to summer 2010.