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Courtesy Walker Art Center
Rights
Copyright retained by the artist

Copyright

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Title
Prometheus Strangling the Vulture II
Date
1944/1953
Dimensions
overall 91.75 × 90 × 57 inches
Materials
bronze
Location
Not on view

Object Details

Type
Sculpture
Accession Number
1956.17
Edition
2/2
Inscriptions
“J. Lipchitz 1944 2/2”; “J. Lipchitz 1944 2/2”
Credit Line
Gift of the T.B. Walker Foundation, 1956

artwork entry Jacques Lipchitz, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, 1998

When Lithuanian-born sculptor Jacques Lipchitz emigrated to Paris in 1909, his friendship with the Spanish artists Juan Gris and Pablo Picasso led him to explore Cubism in his sculptures. By the late 1920s, however, Lipchitz moved from these figures made of flat planes and angular masses to a looser style based on natural forms, and he began to explore themes and ideas in his sculptures rather than purely formal relationships. The theme of Prometheus emerged as early as 1933 in his work, as a symbol of human progress and determination and a parable for the triumph of democracy over fascism. In the Greek legend, Prometheus stole fire from the gods and bestowed it as a gift on humankind. This so enraged the god Zeus that he had Prometheus chained to a rocky mountainside, to be tortured by a vulture for all eternity. In Lipchitz’s sculptural version of the story, however, Prometheus triumphs over his fate: freed from his chains, he strangles the bird with one hand as he grips the claws in the other. The original version of Prometheus Strangling the Vulture was a 30-foot work cast in plaster for the 1937 International Exhibition in Paris. After the artist resettled in America, the Brazilian government commissioned him to sculpt another Prometheus for the Ministry of Education and Health building in Rio de Janeiro. The Walker sculpture is based on this 1944 version, which was recast in bronze in 1953.

Jenkins, Janet, ed. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Minneapolis, MN: Walker Art Center, 1998, no. 28.

© 1998 Walker Art Center

curriculum resource Jacques Lipchitz, Prometheus Strangling the Vulture II (1944/1953) Walker Art Center, 2002

“I wished to say to men, ‘If you desire to continue freely in your creative work, it will be necessary for you to enter the struggle and conquer the forces of darkness that are about to invade the world.’” –Jacques Lipchitz

The alcove at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden’s east edge is dominated by Jacques Lipchitz’s bronze sculpture Prometheus Strangling the Vulture II. It was inspired by the classical Greek myth Prometheus and the Vulture in which Prometheus stole fire from the gods as a gift for mankind. The god Zeus was so angry he punished Prometheus by binding him to a cliff for eternity, where every day a vulture devoured his liver. However, in this sculpture, Lipchitz portrays Prometheus triumphing over the vulture, strangling the bird with one hand and holding his claws in the other. For the artist, this was a symbol of human progress and determination and of democracy triumphing over fascism. The original version of Prometheus Strangling the Vulture was a 30-foot work cast in plaster for the Paris International Exposition in 1937. In 1943, the Brazilian government asked Lipchitz to sculpt another version of the work for the Ministry of Education and Health building in Rio de Janeiro. The Walker sculpture is based on the second version.

Text for Jacques Lipchitz, Prometheus Strangling the Vulture II (1944/1953), from the curriculum guide So, Why Is This Art?, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2002.

Copyright 2002 Walker Art Center