Joseph Conrad

Sir Jacob Epstein, 1880 - 1959

Joseph Conrad

Sir Jacob Epstein 1880 - 1959


Portrait bust of an elderly male, depicted with a neatly trimmed and groomed moustache and beard; he has overhanging eyebrows, heavy eyelids and sunken cheeks, creating the impression of a very weary man; he is dressed formally with a suit jacket, which reveals beneath it a waistcoat and high-collared shirt with tie. The mass of his torso, with his shoulders hunched , functions as a pedestal for the head. The sittings took place at Connrad's home at Oswalds near Canterbury. In his autobiography, Epstein wrote "Conrad was an absorbing study. He took posing seriously and gave me good long sittings until one o'clock, when we lunched and talked...A sculptor had previously made a bust of him which represented him as an open-necked, romantic, out-of-dooor type person. In appearance, Conrad was the very opposite. His clothes were immaculately conventional, and his collar enclosed his neck like an Iron Maiden's vice or garrotter's grip. He was worried if his hair and beard were not trim and neat as became a sea Captain. There was nothing shaggy or Bohemian about him. His glance was keen despite the drooping of one eyelid. He was the sea captain, the officer, and in our talks he emphasised the word 'responsibility'. Responsibility weighed on him and weighed him down...He was crippled with rheumatism, crotchety, nervous and ill. He said to me "I am finished"...Conrad had a demon expression in his left eye, while his right eye was smothered by a drooping lid, but the eyes glowed with a great intensity of feeling. The drooping, weary lids intensified the impression of brooding thought. The whole head revealed the man who had suffered much. A head set on shoulders hunched about his ears. When he was seated, the shoulders gave the impression of a pedestal for the head...Conrad's own opinion about my portrai of himself was conveyed in a letter he wrote to Richard Curle, his biographer and literary executor. 'The bust by Ep. has grown truly monumental. It is a marvellously effective piece of sculpture, with even something more than a masterly interpretation in it...It is wonderful to go down to posterity like that.'" Conrad died five months after the bust was completed.

Object Name

Joseph Conrad

Creators Name

Sir Jacob Epstein

Date Created



sculpture: 49.5cm x 57cm

accession number


Place of creation




On Display

[G12] Manchester Art Gallery - Gallery 12 - TEMPORARILY CLOSED
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