Jacob Epstein

Torso from the ‘Rock Drill’

Torso from the ‘Rock Drill’ by Jacob Epstein

Artwork Detail

Epstein originally envisaged Rock Drill as a composite sculpture of a figure straddling a quarryman's drill, a bold concept that still seems astonishing today. 'It was in the experimental pre-war days of 1913 that I was fired to do Rock Drill, and my ardour for machinery (short-lived) expended itself upon the purchase of an actual drill, second-hand, and upon this I made and mounted a machine-like robot, visored, menacing, and carrying within itself its progeny, protectively ensconced. Here is the armed, sinister figure of today and tomorrow. No humanity, only the terrible Frankenstein's monster we have made ourselves into'. This engagement with the restless power of the machine age inspired many artists including the Vorticists, a group who described themselves in their manifesto as 'primitive mercenaries in the modern world'. Epstein had connections with this group, who were aware of the darker side of the machine age; this work was a portent of the fury of metal and fire that was to be unleashed during the First World War. Soon after it was exhibited in 1915, Epstein discarded the drill, destroyed the driller's tripod-like legs, cut off the torso above the buttocks and dispensed with most of the left hand. The rounded foetal form and the exoskeletal thorax could hardly be more opposed. They remain a sinister metaphor for the relationship between man and machine. (from The Guide, 2001)

Torso from the ‘Rock Drill’
Jacob Epstein
Production date
1913-1915 {conceived}
730 x 640 x 340 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1961
Accession no
No known copyright restrictions
International Art
Display status
On display

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