Today I revisit Epstein's Jacob and the Angel at Tate Britain. The title of this assignment is "Encounter with an Art Work". I would like to compare my impressions of the sculpture when approached from different routes.
On my last visit I came into the Tate through the main entrance. Passing through the swing doors from the main gallery the sculpture stands to the left of the stairway. From here the viewer immediately sees the work full length. Jacob's back is towards you and the Angel looms over Jacob supporting his collapsed frame. The top of his head and wings are visible over Jacob's head. I was immediately struck by the power and solidity of the Angel as he clasped Jacob's limp frame to his chest. I could immediately observe the relationship between the two.
Today my approach is from the side entrance to the Tate. Climbing up the stairs the sculpture gradually comes into view on the right. From here the back of the Angel is first seen. The rectangular from of his wings and the top of his head are visible. It is only when you arrive at the top of the stairs that the full length of the sculpture can be seen in profile to the right.
The two figures are chest to chest, the Angel displays strength and stability in his wide erect stance contrasting with Jacob's limp posture.
I think this is a very powerful work which can communicate with the viewer when approached from either angle. However, for me, the entrance from the main gallery is the more exciting because it affords a full-length first impression of the figures rather than their gradual appearance as you climb the stairs.
I do not know if Epstein created this sculpture to be shown in Tate Britain would be interested to find out if it is a site specific work. Did he want it to explode into view or slowly unfold?