Page 46 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 31

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citizenship, was deemed sufficiently “safe” to justify a new edi-
tion. Renamed
Epstein: An Autobiography,
the book was pub-
lished by E. P. Dutton in 1955; the text remained the same, su p
plemented by a new “Postscript 1954.” Epstein died in London
in 1959, an elder statesman of the arts rather than the hurricane
centcr he had been in his youth. In 1963 E. P. Dutton, New York,
and Vista Books, London, brought out the second edition of
Epstein: An Autobiography,
adding an introduction by Richard
Buckle, dealing with the final years of the world-famous artist.
Jewish readers will particularly relish the first chapter, “New
York: 1880,” in which Epstein vividly described his early life
on the “teeming East Side” of New York during the 1880’s and
1890’s, remarking that Rembrandt would have been “delighted”
with tlie scene. Jacob encountered less opposition from his par-
ents than did other young artists. The senior Epsteins were rea-
sonably well-off, and did not discourage his decision to become
an artist, even though they failed to see how he could make a
living: “Their idea of an artist was that of a person who was con-
demned to starvation.”
Epstein made many illustrations based on what he saw around
Hester Street for the book by the sympathetic non-Jew, Hutchins
Hapgood, entitled
The Spirit of the Ghetto,
recently re-issued.
But his association with Jews and Judaism came to a virtual end
as soon as he boarded the boat for Europe in 1902. Rejection of
his anti-traditionalist sculpture was occasionally coupled with
xenophobic and even anti-Semitic attacks. The most scurrilous
kind of Jew-baiting was printed in a
New Age
article of 1924 in
which Epstein was accused of having projected “certain bestial
characteristics” into the faces of decent people, of having ex-
pressed the “substantial racial Hebrew life,” where “power is the
motive force of man, and woman is but an instrument of sensual-
ity.” Yet Epstein, his early infatuation with the Lower East Side
notwithstanding, retained no conscious link with Jewish life. “I
have never joined in all-Jewish exhibitions of art”; he explained:
“Artists are of all races and climes, and to band together in racial
groups is ridiculous.”
Epstein’s colleague, Jo Davidson, was also born on the Lower
East Side. He wrote
Between Sittings: An Informal Autobiog­