The Three Graces

Ossip Zadkine (1888 - 1967)
Close-up of heads and torsos of The Three Graces.
ArtistOssip Zadkine (1888 - 1967)
Nationality Belarusian, lived and worked in France
Medium Bronze
Dimensions 0.7m x 1.5m
Acquisition Purchase
Date 1960

Ossip Zadkine’s (1888 – 1967) sculpture, The Three Graces, was the first purchase of visual art for the National Arts Centre, making it the natural start from which to begin exploring the collection at the NAC. This piece is a cubist representation of the commonly depicted Three Graces from Graeco-Roman literature: Aglaea (Beauty), Euphrosyne (Joy), and Thalia (Abundance). In mythology, the graces play the role of an attendant, gracing festivals and organizing dances, making them particularly well-suited to welcome visitors to a performing arts venue. Cast in bronze, it is one of only five works made from the same mold. Having been purchased prior to the completion of the Centre, the sculpture was housed at the National Gallery of Canada before being moved to the NAC.

Ossip Zadkine was one of an important group of cubist sculptors who followed the original experiments of Picasso. Born in Smolensk, Russia, he lived and worked mostly in Paris, where he developed an international following. His studies took him to London, where he eventually settled in 1909. There he met the influential artist Marc Chagall and a group of expatriate Russian artists, all greatly influenced by Cubism. From 1910-1914, he studied at L’École des Beaux Arts, and his work was included in several group showings in Paris, Berlin, and London. In 1950, he won the sculpture prize at the Venice Biennale. In 1956, the National Gallery of Canada mounted a major exhibition of his work which toured across the country and throughout the United States. Zadkine was an influential teacher and had an influential role in the education of other artists whose works are present in the NAC’s collection, including Julien Hébert.

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