The Misery of Job

© SABAM Belgium, 2024

Artist / maker

Ossip Zadkine (sculptor)

Date

1914

Period

20th century
The misery of Job, also known as Job or Job and his friends, is a wooden sculpture of human suffering. Four figures mourn the luckless Job. They are his kneeling wife and three friends of his: Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, whose bowed heads signify their sympathy. ‘They lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle…
Read more
The misery of Job, also known as Job or Job and his friends, is a wooden sculpture of human suffering. Four figures mourn the luckless Job. They are his kneeling wife and three friends of his: Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, whose bowed heads signify their sympathy. ‘They lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great,’ according to the Old Testament. In subject and form this early work by Zadkine owes far more to Symbolism than to the Cubism that caught the Parisian avant-garde unawares in 1914. The biblical scene and the elongated forms partly illustrate the spiritual dimension that Zadkine felt had been lost in contemporary sculpture. It was a conviction he shared with the Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani, among others. That is why, unlike the influential Auguste Rodin, Zadkine liked to work taille directe, or with direct carving, a technique in which the process of cutting away the wood partly determines the ultimate form of the work. In other words, the wood grains helped to establish the forms, poses and gestures of Zadkine’s figures. In his own words, the artist places himself ‘at the service of the wood’. In the process he has the power of his imagination to see in advance the outlines of his designs in the wood that he has not yet worked. The misery of Job is the only known sculpture group by Zadkine that was not developed as a whole. The four separate sculptures were only placed together on a low surface after the First World War. There are three levels to the spatial composition, with the kneeling woman forming the transition between horizontality (Job) and verticality (Job’s friends). Even more than Rodin’s Burghers of Calais, Zadkine’s group makes one think of The fountain of kneeling youths, the well-known sculpture by the Ghent artist Georges Minne, although it is not clear whether Minne was the immediate source of inspiration. Zadkine’s close ties with Belgium only dated from several years later. André De Ridder, founder of the journal Sélection and the Brussels gallery of the same name, became the most important promoter of Zadkine’s work. After the exhibition Cubistes et néo-cubistes in Galerie Sélection, two of Zadkine’s sculptures remained there permanenty. De Ridder and his professional partner Paul-Gustave Van Hecke largely took over the exhibition from the Antwerp Cercle royal artistique et littéraire. Zadkine exhibited there with such Paris Cubists as Jacques Lipchitz, Henri Laurens, Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso. In the years that followed his Brussels promoters continued showing his works in the Centaure and L’Epoque galleries, and articles appeared in the journals Le Centaure, Variétés, Cahiers de Belgique, Opbouwen and elsewhere. Zadkine’s lengthy visibility in Belgium led to purchases by the KMSKA in 1932 and 1933, the year of his large retrospective in the Brussels Centre for Fine Arts. In mid-November 1936 Zadkine was in Paris when he received a letter from the former director of the Antwerp museum thanking him for ‘the grand gesture of sympathy’ towards the museum. Zadkine wanted to donate The misery of Job. In the decades that followed he often returned to Belgium. In 1950 there was a major exhibition in the Middelheim Museum, where four of his works are preserved. ‘Belgium suits me’, Zadkine said.
Read less

More about this work

Vlaamse Kunstcollectie - EN

Your browser does not meet the minimum requirements to view this website. The browsers below are compatible. If you do not have one of these browsers, click on the icon to download the preferred browser.