August 22, 1891
Sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, whose final work, “The Tree of Life,” stands outside Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem, is born Chaim Jacob Lipchitz in Lithuania. Though his father wants him to study engineering, he is encouraged by his mother to study art in Paris, where he joins a group that includes Pablo Picasso and Juan Gris and adopts the name Jacques.
He experiments in cubist sculpture, and in 1920 he exhibits his first solo show at the Galerie L’Effort Moderne in Paris. In the 1930s he shifts to working with abstract forms in transparent sculptures. They often are displayed outdoors, making the landscape an important component of the work. He flees France for the United States in 1941 to escape the Nazis and settles in New York state.
In his later years, he often draws inspiration from his Jewish background, pulling from biblical stories for pieces such as “Jacob Wrestling With the Angel.” He also creates sculptures inspired by the Holocaust and Israel’s establishment. Under the influence of the Lubavitcher rebbe, Lipchitz becomes more observant, and in a 1970 interview he declares himself a religious Jew.
Lipchitz dies in Italy in May 1973. He bequeaths 300 of his sculptures to the Jerusalem Museum of Art, where they remain in the Lipchitz Pavilion. In 1978, Hadassah Hospital unveils his “Tree of Life,” a 37-foot-tall, bronze sculpture representing the Jewish patriarchs, the burning bush and the two tablets of the law.