In 1933, Albert Einstein renounced his German citizenship to protest Hitler’s rise to power and fled to America, where he became a founding member of the School of Mathematics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. On the way, Einstein took refuge in England, where he was the guest of Commander Oliver Locker-Lampson at his retreat near Cromer. Shortly after Einstein’s arrival, the sculptor Jacob Epstein was engaged to make his portrait. Epstein humorously recounted: “I worked for two hours every morning, and at the first sitting the Professor was so surrounded with tobacco smoke from his pipe that I saw nothing. At the second sitting I asked him to smoke in the interval.”
Einstein made a strong impression on Epstein; in the artist’s words, “his glance contained a mixture of the humane, the humorous, and the profound.”According to the sculptor, Einstein’s face “resembled the aging Rembrandt.” This remblance is hardly inconsequential, as the final work by Epstein bears distinct formal traces of Rembrandt. Although the artist was not able to complete the work while Einstein was sitting for him, the expressive molding of Einstein’s features coupled with a mastery of surface textures has ensured that Epstein’s bust of Einstein remains one of the most memorable portraits of the great scientist.