Ein­stein cap­tured in bronze as he fled

A sculp­ture of Al­bert Ein­stein is on dis­play in Leeds. Jon Cron­shaw re­ports on the re­mark­able true story that led to its cre­ation. CHAM­PION OF HENRY MOORE

Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide - - ART -

which out­lined some of the worst Nazi atroc­i­ties to date. Ger­man news­pa­pers printed shock­ing sto­ries about “Ein­stein’s in­famy” and dis­missed his The­ory of Rel­a­tiv­ity as “Jewish physics”. One news­pa­per fea­tured a large pho­to­graph on its front cover with the words “Not Yet Hanged” em­bla­zoned across it, and a re­ward of £1,000 was of­fered by Hitler for the as­sas­si­na­tion of the physi­cist.

The real threat to Ein­stein’s life be­came un­bear­able, and fear­ing for the safety of those who had hid­den him in Bel­gium, he made the heart­break­ing de­ci­sion to leave his fam­ily and friends be­hind in Europe for the sanc­tu­ary of Amer­ica.

A plan was hatched by Ein­stein’s wife Elsa to have him se­cretly smug­gled out of Bel­gium, to Eng­land in his first step to­wards reach­ing Amer­ica. She con­tacted the Naval Com­man­der and MP Oliver Locker-Lamp­son, a mem­ber of the UK’s refugee com­mit­tee, to ar­range Ein­stein’s covert res­cue.

Locker-Lamp­son con­vinced a re­porter from the Sun­day Ex­press to travel by boat to IN 1933, Al­bert Ein­stein was forced to flee Ger­many pur­sued by Nazi as­sas­sins. Dur­ing his flight, he sat for a por­trait by sculp­tor Ja­cob Ep­stein. The re­sult is re­garded as one of the finest por­trait busts in 20th-cen­tury art – and is cur­rently on dis­play at the Stan­ley and Au­drey Bur­ton Gallery in Leeds. How this sculp­ture came to be is one of the most dra­matic sto­ries in the his­tory of art.

The story be­gins in sum­mer 1933. Ein­stein had been falsely as­so­ci­ated with a book en­ti­tled The Brown Book of Hitler Ter­ror SIR Ja­cob Ep­stein (18801959) was an Amer­i­can­born Jewish sculp­tor who worked in Bri­tain from 1905 un­til his death. He was fa­mous for his vivid por­traits in­clud­ing Win­ston Churchill, Joseph Con­rad and Princess Mar­garet. He caused con­tro­versy with his un­usual stone carv­ings in­clud­ing Ja­cob and the An­gel, Adam, and his Tomb for Os­car Wilde. He was one of the first sculp­tors to cham­pion York­shire-born artist Henry Moore. Many of his sculp­tures are part of Leeds City Art Gallery’s per­ma­nent col­lec­tion, and his gi­ant carv­ing Adam is on dis­play in the foyer of Hare­wood House. col­lect Ein­stein un­der the cover of night. With the mis­sion a suc­cess, Ein­stein was taken to a small se­cluded shack on the out­skirts of the sea­side town of Cromer on the east coast.

Once safe, there was a bizarre mix­ture of se­crecy and pub­lic­ity about Ein­stein’s newly-found refuge. While his lo­ca­tion was kept a close­ly­guarded se­cret, pic­tures were re­leased to the Press show­ing Ein­stein pos­ing with two at­trac­tive women hold­ing large hunt­ing shot­guns, with Lock­erLamp­son’s words in the cap­tion: “If any unau­tho­rised per­son comes near they will get a charge of buck­shot.”

It was here, holed up in a shed some­where on the Nor­folk coast, that Ein­stein was to wait un­til ar­range­ments could be made for him to leave for Amer­ica. In a re­mark­able twist, Lock­erLamp­son saw fit to ar­range for the noted Jewish sculp­tor Ja­cob Ep­stein to make a por­trait of the sci­en­tist – per­haps fear­ing that Ein­stein, still with a bounty on his head, may not have the op­por­tu­nity to pose for a por­trait again.

Ein­stein spent two hours a day for a week sit­ting for the por­trait. Ep­stein found it dif­fi­cult to cre­ate the por­trait be­cause Ein­stein was such a heavy smoker, and the shack was so small and dingy that it made it dif­fi­cult to see.

Ein­stein was in good hu­mour through­out the sit­ting. Ep­stein said: “He en­joyed a joke and had many a jibe at the Nazi pro­fes­sors, one hun­dred of whom in a book had con­demned his the­ory. ‘Were I wrong,’ he said, ‘one pro­fes­sor would have been quite enough’.” Be­cause time was short, the artist con­sid­ered the por­trait to be un­fin­ished. How­ever, oth­ers re­gard it as one of Ep­stein’s great­est achieve­ments – it is a sculp­ture that flick­ers with life and in­sight, and marks a dra­matic pe­riod in the lives of two great men.

Al­bert Ein­stein (1933) is on dis­play as part of the Jewish Artists in York­shire ex­hi­bi­tion at the Stan­ley and Au­drey Bur­ton Gallery un­til June 20.

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