I is for Isamu Noguchi

When Isamu Noguchi was down to his bottom dollar, circa 1941, so the story goes, Edward James' friend, the actress Iris Tree, encouraged him to have a bust sculpted by Noguchi. James said that the modelling of the head was intriguing to watch.

...'Every evening I left with my face bearing distinctly close resemblance to the clay head. Then the next day I returned to find that I had come back to the wrong face. Or the clay model had in the night been unravelled - as Penelope unspun her web - because he could not decide which of my polyform characteristics he ought to select for marriage to the eventual marble. They were all to him like troublesome suitors to the opus'.

Iris Tree was sought after as a young woman, as an artists' model, being painted by Augustus John, simultaneously by Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and Roger Fry, and sculpted by Jacob Epstein, showing her bobbed hair (she was said to have cut off the rest and left it on a train) that, along with other behaviour, caused much scandal.

Further research

The Secret Life of Edward James (1978) presented by George Melly

The Bones of My Hand by Edward James (Oxford University Press, 1938)

The Magic Kingdom by Joanna Moorhead, an award-winning freelance journalist

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Face to face

Edward James in his swimming pool with his bust by Isamu Noguchi in the background. ┬ęThe Edward James Foundation.