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Ossip Zadkine (1888 - 1967)

Lot 184: La forêt humaine


February 4, 2008
London, United Kingdom

More About this Item


Ossip Zadkine (1890-1967)
La forêt humaine
signed and numbered 'O. Zadkine 4/6' (on the top of the base towards the back); inscribed with the foundry mark 'Susse Fondeur Paris' (on the left side of the base)
bronze with green and brown patina
Height: 94½ in. (240 cm.)
Conceived in 1957, this bronze was cast in a numbered edition of six plus three artist's proofs at a later date

Artist or Maker

Ossip Zadkine (1890-1967)


Yamanashi, Prefectural Museum of Art, Ossip Zadkine , October - November 1989, no. 34 (illustrated pp. 74-75); this exhibition later travelled to Takamatsu, City Museum of Art, February - March 1990; Gunma, Museum of Modern Art, April - May 1990 and Kagoshima, City Museum of Art, July - August 1990.


Fujikawa Galleries Inc. Tokyo.
Private collection, Japan.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.


La forêt humaine is a writhing mesh of forms, fauna and flora mangled together to produce a monstrous and monumental apparition. In this sculpture, one of the most famous and celebrated of Ossip Zadkine's themes, the world of the forest has taken on a chimeric dimension, with human forms clearly emerging from these trees. We are privy to some form of metaphysical metamorphosis. Zadkine had long been influenced by trees and forests, not least during his childhood in his native Belarus, and in this work is perfectly crystallised that disconcerting feeling when the forms of surrounding woodland take on strange new aspects, appearing to morph into threatening figures before our eyes.

Discussing La forêt humaine , Waldemar George wrote:'Arborescent men form a thicket swept by the wind. The elemental force of a forest on the march sows terror and acts as a shock-value. Zadkine, the quarryman and stone carver is transformed into a baroque visionary. An art of panic is born before our very eyes. This art puts an end to Man's dominion. The artist makes Man a part of the cosmos, one element among others' (quoted in I. Jianou, Zadkine , Paris, 1964, p. 61).

This 'art of panic' is pointedly filled with optimism, with life. The organic aspects of La forêt humaine and the manner in which man and plant have fused together hint at the artist's own profound interest in our place in the universe: 'We are particles of an immense cosmos and we must know how to fullfil our great role' (O. Zadkine, quoted in ibid. ).

In La forêt humaine , this towering sculpture takes on some of the looming presence of the forest; at the same time, it is pierced with an array of openings, creating a dynamic interplay of space and form, the environment penetrating the surface in a manner that both captures the mirage-like appearance of the forest by night and explores the nature of sculpture itself.

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