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Dora Gordine (1895-1991)

Dora Gordine, FRBS (1895-1991)

The Russian-born sculptor and painter, Dora Gordine, matched her extraordinary life with a body of work that spanned sensitive portrait busts and impressive public commissions. Inspired by the peoples and culture of Southeast Asia from early in her career, she spent five years living and working in what was then known as British Malaya. Settling in Britain before the Second World War, she soon gained a critical reputation as ‘very possibly becoming the finest woman sculptor in the world’. In 2005, the leading modern sculptor, Sir Anthony Caro, paid tribute to her art, by describing it as ‘withheld, slowed down, as is the art of Maillol’, and adding that ‘when we place her work against that of the much more successful academic Sculptors of the time it is a million miles better’ (in Sara MacDougall and Rachel Dickson (eds), 2006, page 17).

Dora Gordine was probably born in the Latvian port of Liepāja, in the Russian Empire, on 8 June 1895, the youngest of the four children of the middle-class Jewish couple, the Latvian, Morduch Gordin and his Lithuanian wife, Emma Ester (née Schepshelewitch). However, during her lifetime, she claimed to have been born in St Petersburg in 1906, and encouraged the mystery that surrounded her origins.

In 1912, the Gordin family moved to Tallinn (then known as Reval), in Estonia, and settled in an apartment at 21B Tatari Street.

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