Menu JTA Search

Margot Sculptures in Many Media Blend Strength, Grace, Critic Finds

Those sensitive genes of talent must have been thoroughly planted in the forebears of the Einstein family.

Margot Marianoff-Einstein, though not the daughter of Albert Einstein, is related to him through her mother, the present Frau Einstein, who is the physicist’s second cousin. Margot Marianoff-Einstein is a sculptress, an extraordinarily sensitive artist who, like her great stepfather and relative, also lives under a protective coloration of modesty and retirement.

HERE FEW MONTHS

Margot—as she prefers to be known and called, and under which name, sans the Einstein, she signs her work—arrived at her mother’s household in Princeton, from Europe, only a few months ago. With her came her work, a dozen or so of relatively small pieces of sculpture in terra-cotta, bronze, clay, wood and wax. These now adorn the homey rooms of 2 Library place, Princeton, N. J.

Princeton, to a stranger, to a non-academician, is no garden of loveliness, especially on a drab March day. It’s a reluctant, stodgy, shut-in little town with some handsome but very professorial and stiff, rather ponderous, streets. Margot does not like it; and one can’t blame her. As she says, it is very quiet, yes, and charming, perhaps, and it has nice people, of course—but it is not very typical of what she would call life. It is not America.

ALWAYS EXPERIMENTING

For Margot is no academician, and inspiration does not come to her under a study lamp. She insistently avers that she has not studied enough, of course—as all good artists do. As all good artists, she is constantly concerned about the inadequacies of her technique, she is always experimenting.

The easy, informal atmosphere of the Einstein house, the “heimisch” burgher touch, the unself-conscious hospitality which permits Frau Einstein to serve even her most transient visitor a plate of her famous minestrone soup, puts the interviewer at ease very shortly. Margot’s small, grave face, now intent and pallid, now alive and her blue eyes luminous with some statement that her English is slow in vocalizing, bends over her work, spread on the table in front of us, and explains:

“You understand? I do not copy, no. I do not only (merely) model. First I must feel and understand—and then after I must feel it…”

PLEASED AT PRAISE

Her fine hands go to her chest and clench.

“You like this? Yes? Oh, I am so glad! It is the head of a friend of mine.”

It is a really remarkable head, in clay. The face of a highly sensitized Czech woman, of obvious peasant stock, refined it would seem by the woman’s sheer capacity for understanding her own suffering. The woman’s mouth and nostrils quiver with sensibility: and the beautifully domed head, the half-closed eyes, brood down-wards, at the lower parts of the face, as though explaining to the mouth and those nostrils, consoling and guarding them. Grief, and the understanding of grief, are so finely etched to the minutest detail in those features, and the emotion is so well balanced by the self-perception of it, that it is difficult to escape the implications of that face long after one has left the formal, bookish purlieus of Prince ton. In that one face (to dwell only on this one piece of sculpture) Margot has caught a mood and incorporated a Weltanschauung that is so Mitel-European it is almost symbolic.

Likewise the figure of the seated woman in terra-cotta: a figure almost two feet high, the woman’s arms folded, her head slightly bent—forward and downward—and the clasped hands expressing almost as much as the constrained face that is trying to shield some profound emotion with an expression of immobility. Here again, as in almost all her work, Margot’s restraint, even, one might say, her shyness, creates an impression of emotional intensity that is far more compelling than any kind of sculptural shouting. It’s as though she were forced to bring the naked emotions of these creations to life, despite herself.

One wonders whether this woman, too, is not some suffering, grieving mother, whom Margot has “caught” at a moment when understanding is finally conquering over grief, and here, in this piece of terra-cotta, eternalized it. The figure, comparatively small as it is, gains stature through a curiously delicate stylization of the body forms. It looks like a sort of seated Caryatid upholding an invisible load. Yet, as in all of her more importance pieces, there is the simultaneous suggestion of arrested movement complementing the other innate suggestion of arrested emotion: and both have been caught and held in poise. And it is in precisely this connection that the hands of Margot’s figures deserve an essay. They are as delicately and sensitively modeled as the figures’ faces.

FIGURES HAVE WIT

But there is also another, lighter, facet to Margot’s talents. Her “kleinstuck,” her dolls, her carvings in wood, her consummate little wax figures. There is a wealth of wit and understanding in these. There is a little wood duck, in maple, that is so sleek and stodgy at once, so rotund and yet pert, that it is not merely a duck; it’s a duck which is a German. It’s a Munich duck: and Margot did not have to tell us so. There is the small figure of a seated Russian peasant woman seen at a Moscow railway station. It is carved in the difficult oak—a test for any wood-carver. Yet it combines the warm humor of the native Russian peasant art—see the tea-cozy dolls the New York art shops have been importing recently—with her own feeling for grace of line and form. The grace, the delicacy, does not minimize the massive strength of the peasant. And that is an accomplishment. Then there are the witty dolls, made up of strips of metal, tissue paper and wax, little gems of observation and insight, that alone would make Margot’s reputation as a miniaturist. But her serious work is of a high order.

Margot wants to go to New York. She wants to escape the cloistral stolidity of Princeton and wander through the streets of New York’s East Side where the living phenomena of her “science” fulfill their human rounds unselfconsciously, unstultified by the decorous mores of the learned. Curiously, and unexpectedly to this interviewer, Margot finds her most sympathetic subject matter in the common human denominator, the “people.” In recent years she seems to have acquired a sort of alarmed social consciousness. She was deeply moved, almost distraught, to hear of the neglect of the young American artists whose work she has seen in the museums here and admired. She is concerned that modern western society seems no more to be able or willing to nurture its culture-bearers, the artists.

NEXT STORY