Plaque on Epstein's house in Baldwins Hill, Loughton

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About

Sir Jacob Epstein 1880 – 1959

Lived and worked in Baldwins Hill, Loughton from the mid 1920s till 1950.

Epstein was born in New York to immigrant parents fleeing persecution in Poland. As a child he enjoyed drawing and later worked in a bronze foundry and attended evening modelling classes in New York and then Paris where he moved in 1902. Two years later he moved to London and had a studio in Camden and then Fulham. He married Margaret Dunlop in 1906 and became a British subject in 1911.

During the First World War Epstein enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers but was discharged from service in 1918 without ever leaving Britain.

As an artist, the young Epstein was considered avant-garde with work that was modern, experimental, challenging, brash and realistic, often with rough finishes and sexually explicit. This was his reaction against the prevailing Edwardian tastes for ornate and fine sculpture reflecting the ancient Greek style. The sculpture that Epstein produced for Oscar Wilde’s tomb in Paris was considered so indecent that it was covered with tarpaulin by the police. However his artistic skill was recognised and he received important commissions from influential people.

Although recognised as an influential artist, Epstein’s nude sculptures, often large and displayed in prominent places, caused heated debate. Alongside the monumental commissions, Epstein created many private bronze portrait sculptures and during the Second World War he was commissioned by the War Artists Advisory Committee to produce bronze busts of key military leaders including Winston Churchill.

It was in the mid twenties that Epstein moved to Loughton where he rented a house at 49 Baldwins Hill on the edge of Epping Forest. In 1933 he moved to 50 Baldwins Hill where he stayed until 1950 when he moved to Hyde Park Gate in London.

Although married to Margaret, Epstein had numerous relationships with other women with whom he had five children. Margaret was a remarkable woman who not only tolerated these relationships but allowed some of the women to live under her roof. However this didn’t extend to all of the women and in 1923 Margaret shot and wounded one of them, Kathleen Garman, in the shoulder. Eight years after Margaret’s death, Epstein married Kathleen in 1955. Their eldest daughter, Kitty, married the painter Lucien Freud in 1948.

Many of his famous works of art, most notably sculptures but also paintings, were created in his Loughton garden studio. He undertook many commissions for sculptures and created portrait bronzes of notable sitters. His paintings were often of the scenes around him in the forest of which he wrote “I could go there with my daughter and we did not have to walk far before seeing something worth painting”.

Locals remembered him fondly as a kind and approachable person who was always willing to chat and had never lost his American accent.

In 1954 he was appointed K.B.E. He worked on his sculptures right up to his death in 1959. His art continued to be an influence to a new generation of sculptors including Henry Moore and Dame Barbara Hepworth.

Map & Directions

Sir Jacob Epstein

Type:Blue Plaque

Baldwins Hill, Loughton, Essex

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