Epstein’s Rock Drill Transformed by War

Rock Drill (c.1913-15) is Epstein’s most radical and celebrated sculpture, often described as ‘the best thing he has ever done’.  The totemic sculpture represents ‘a dramatic, revolutionary moment when sculpture in Britain first became uncompromisingly modern.’  However between the end of 1915 and the beginning of 1916 Epstein destroyed the original Rock Drill, discarding the drill and mutilating the figure, to form the truncated Torso in Metal from Rock Drill (c.1915-16).


Almost sixty years after its destruction, Kathleen Garman agreed to a reconstruction of her late husband’s iconic sculpture following proposals that ‘if someone were to reconstruct the original version of Rock Drill it could substantially alter the history of the modern movement.’  Marking the centenary of Epstein’s dismantling of Rock Drill, and bringing together works from the collections of Tate, The British Museum, National Portrait Gallery and Birmingham Museums Trust, this exhibition reveals how the sculpture’s un-making is as significant as its making.


Image credit:  Jacob Epstein with Torso in Metal from Rock Drill, unknown photographer, c.1952, Epstein Archive, The New Art Gallery Walsall