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Iconic Epstein sculpture goes on display at Walsall gallery

By Dayna Farrington | Walsall | Attractions | Published:

Jacob Epstein's work of art Jacob and the Angel has gone on display at a Black Country art gallery – and is expected to attract art lovers from across the region.

The sculpture has made a temporary home at the New Art Gallery in Walsall, on loan from the Tate Museum, until later this year.

Jacob and the Angel depicts a biblical story – the Book of Genesis, chapter 32, verses 24 to 32 – in which a stranger forces Jacob to wrestle with him throughout the night. In the morning his opponent reveals himself to be an angel and blesses Jacob for not giving up the fight.

In the sculpture, the angel, with wall-like wings, supports an exhausted slumping Jacob. The two figures are wrapped in an embrace, emblematic of the embrace of God.

It can be seen to act as a metaphor for the conflict happening across Europe at the time during the Second World War, and the struggle of Jewish people. Epstein himself was Jewish, and often faced anti-Semitism which prevented him from being accepted by the art establishment.

Despite the fact Epstein, and his work were rejected or criticised for a certain period of time, he refused to compromise and remained true to his art.

A spokesman for the gallery said: "We’re absolutely delighted to have Jacob Epstein’s Jacob and the Angel masterpiece on display at The New Art Gallery Walsall. The sculpture, which was first showcased in the Leicester Galleries, London, in 1942 and acquired by Tate in 1996, is carved in a single block of alabaster, stands 2700mm in height and weights almost 3 tones.

"It’s currently on display in the gallery’s impressive foyer so has an immediate impact on visitors when they walk through the gallery entrance, visitors certainly won’t miss it."

Jacob and the Angel is on display until September 29.

New Art Gallery is also the home of the Garman Ryan Collection, gifted to the borough of Walsall in 1973 by Lady Kathleen Epstein, the widow of Jacob Epstein. It amasses a collection of 365 works, including those by renowned artists such s Constable, Monet, Picasso and Van Gogh, as well as Epstein, Lucian Freud, Theo Garman and atthew Smith, alongside artefacts from many cultures around the world.

Dayna Farrington

By Dayna Farrington
Senior reporter based at Wolverhampton

Reporter for the Express & Star based at Wolverhampton.

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