London Art Week (LAW) has developed into a major showcase of the best that the art market has to offer, with over fifty participating galleries and three auction houses.
LAW offers visitors – whether seasoned collectors, museum curators, scholars, or those simply interested in learning more about art – an unparalleled assemblage of several centuries of art to admire, learn about, and purchase.
Discover all artworks and online winter exhibitions from the world’s leading pre-contemporary galleries at London Art Week Digital, from Friday 27 November to Friday 11 December.
Study for Sacrificial Figure, 1952
Gilded shell bronze and wire
20 x 23.5 x 15 cm.
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York
Offer Waterman, London
Private Collection, UK, Leeds
Osborne Samuel, London
The Sculpture of Reg Butler , Margaret Garlake, published by the Henry Moore Foundation in association with Lund Humphries, 2006, cat, no.110, illustrated in colour Plate 8, p.22
British Surrealism in Context: A Collector’s Eye, published by Jeremy Millings Publishings, 2009 to accompany the exhibition of the same title at Leeds City Art Gallery, 10th July – 1st November , 2009, p.127
Hanover Gallery, London, 1954
Curt Valentine, 1955, Cat no. 15
J B Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky, Reg Butler ‘A Retrospective Exhibition , October 22 – December 1, 1963, cat no.49
Museum of Modern Art (Mima), British Surrealism & Other Realities, Middlesborough, 23 May -17 August, 2008
Leeds Art Gallery, British Surrealism in Context: A Collector’s Eye, 10th July – 1st November , 2009,
Hepworth Wakefield, Post-War British Sculpture and Painting, 5 May 2012 – 3 November 2013
Reg Butler’s powerful Study for Sacrificial Figure was conceived concurrently with his prizewinning submission for ‘The Unknown Political Prisoner’ competition in 1952. Suggesting an elongated horse’s head, it appears half-flesh, half-skeleton, with sockets for eyes and twisted cage for a muzzle.
Butler created two sculptures titled Study for Sacrificial Figure, both exhibited at his solo Hanover Gallery exhibition in 1954. ₁ Tantalisingly, there is no visual record of the larger unlocated work, yet a context for both can be amplified through chronologically adjacent sculptures. Early maquettes for the ‘Unknown Political Prisoner’ monument (1952) imply confined figures, St Catherine (relief) (1953) consists of a wheel and racked torso, while the subject of Study for Figure Falling (1953) twists convulsively within its frame: all are victims. Through them, we can trace Butler’s interest in Germaine Richier’s sculpture, with its emphasis on the metamorphic, mutilated figure, as well as a close reading of Freud, focusing on notions of the ‘primitive’, the fetish and the sacrificial object.
Between 1951 and 1952 Butler had fluctuated between using iron, to create forged and welded sculpture, and a new technique: shell bronze. The process was laborious, involving creating a model, then a plaster mould, ‘pasting’ on shell bronze using oxyacetylene, then welding the cast sections together. Its principal advantage lay in the ability to replicate detail with great sensitivity, its disadvantage in the time required to patinate the resulting sculpture by gilding. Yet the technique’s liberating potential is instantly apparent. Butler had begun to feel constrained by the dominance of iron, as well as a need, in his sculpture, ‘to establish a greater physical presence, more directly related to the subject’. ₂ In Study for Sacrificial Figure the wax, poured and modelled over an armature, remains visible in the casting as a molten skin: an effect both tactile and shocking in its immediacy.
Butler’s Study for Sacrificial Figure was included in a solo exhibition at New York’s Curt Valentin Gallery in 1955. Reviewing it for The New York Times, Stuart Preston considered Butler to be one of the most vital artists to have emerged in Britain since the war. He identified Marini’s influence, in figures that were ‘strained, almost tormented, in their expressive distortions’, continuing,
They are stripped down to bone and muscle to which skin clings tightly as cerements. Economical and tense, heads thrown back and legs and arms akimbo, they electrify the space about them. ₃
Vital to this ability to animate space was the inclusion of plates, blocks and protruding wires, suggesting the sculptures’ means of construction at the same time as connecting them to the real world. In Study for Sacrificial Figure the result is complex. What might be a found object, relic of an apocalyptic disaster, might equally be a totemic head, accessory to an unspecified ritual.
Modern photographs of this work, taken in profile, have encouraged its identification as an animal’s head. Butler was himself a keen photographer, adept, as Margaret Garlake notes, at ‘exploiting contrasts of tone and lighting to create a minor drama in almost every print’. ₄ From 1949 onwards Butler took considerable care to document his work, also using photography as a tool to gauge the potential scale of a sculpture. Thus it is intriguing that the catalogue for a retrospective at the J. B. Speed Art Museum at Louisville in 1963, which included small-scale images of each of Butler’s sixty-one sculptures, shows Study for Sacrificial Figure photographed from above. ₅ From this vantage the sculpture appears quite different: a tortured figure, quasi-human, with spine arched, arms thrust outwards, and a piteous head. Voids which suggested eye sockets now imply wounds to the torso, and the twisted fuselage beneath the sculpture perhaps indicates a rack, or its tethering to the ground. While the photographer is uncredited (was it Butler, or did he approve the image?), it seems clear that either interpretation is valid, and that this compelling sculpture derives its strength from such ambiguity.
Even as he struggled to articulate his thoughts on Butler’s new work, destined for the Venice Biennale in 1952, Herbert Read had noted as much. The British Pavilion included six sculptures by Butler (three iron, three bronze), identified as single female figures, a couple (girl and boy), and an insect. Tracing their origin to a ‘precise study of the morphology of nature’, Read identified Butler’s mode of transformation as the interchange of species to create ‘convincing hybrids, endowed with vitality and grace’. ₆ Study for Sacrificial Figure, contemporary with this reading, hovers uncannily between categories – between animal, human and object.
1.The Hanover Gallery exhibition catalogue lists Study for Sacrificial Figure (1952), length 11”, cat. 5, and Study for Sacrificial Figure (1952), length 22”, cat. 6. The catalogue entry (no. 110, p. 134) in Margaret Garlake, The Sculpture of Reg Butler (Lund Humphries / The Henry Moore Foundation, 2006), conflates these two sculptures.
2. Reg Butler, ‘The Venus of Lespugue and Other Naked Ladies’, The William Townsend Lecture (11 November 1980), quoted in Reg Butler (London: The Tate Gallery, 1983), p. 89.
3. Stuart Preston, ‘Recent Sculpture and Painting’, The New York Times (16 January 1955).
4. Garlake, The Sculpture of Reg Butler, p. 60.
5. Reg Butler (J. B. Speed Museum, Louisville, Kentucky, 1963), cat. 49. The catalogue includes an essay by the curator, Addison Franklin Page (1911–1999), who visited Butler at his studio in 1960.
6. Herbert Read, ‘New Aspects of British Sculpture’, catalogue essay for the XXVI Biennale, Venice (1952).
Barrels in a Yard, c.1955
Oil on canvas
47.5 x 35 cm.
Signed lower right
Osborne Samuel, London
During the mid-1950s Clough’ s renowned interest in industrial themes dominated her subject matter. Working harbours such as Lowestoft, lorry drivers, print making technicians at the London art schools where she taught, and manual workers peopled her compositions. These labourers were however generic, rather than individualistic and were intimately connected with their working environments. The solitary figure in Barrels in a Yard focuses attention at compositional mid-point and acts as guardian of the encased freight being processed in the yard. Further site-specific details are absent, so we could be at a dockyard, a pub, a factory or an unloading bay. The palette is similarly restricted, in this example to a dirty cream and blue-grey scheme that tonally unifies the picture, the sole chromatic highlight provided by the circular acid yellow of one of the barrels. The spatial context is also established through a dark grey foreground column at right that pushes the rest of the picture back into a distanced atmospheric recess.
It is clear that Clough commonly subjected the thematic material of her art to a stringent formalist criterion; in other words specific figurative sources were almost afterthoughts – a kind of iconographic camouflage – grafted onto the main abstract idea. The interplay between the mysterious and the overtly commonplace gives a compelling ambiguity to Clough’ s work, the popularity of which continues to grow with time. Perhaps this appeal is based on Michael Harrison’ s contention that Clough’ s, “painting language was not just that of a painter, but also of a wartime cartographer, a graphic designer in her youth and a life-long printmaker”.
Bronze and oil paint
29 x 70 x 30 cm.
Edition of 5
Waiting for the Sun: Sean Henry, published by Osborne Samuel, November 2020, illustrated p. 10-13
‘Waiting for the Sun: Sean Henry’, Osborne Samuel, November – December 2020
Inspired by Markéta Luskacova’s iconic photograph ‘Sleeping Pilgrim’ from 1978
Reclining Figures, 1943
Pencil, charcoal, wax crayons, pen, ink & wash on paper
45.6 x 64.7 cm.
Signed & dated lower left 'Moore 43' & with various inscriptions by the artist
Private Collection, Chicago (acquired before 1950 & thence by descent)
Private Collection, USA
Ann Garrould (ed.), Henry Moore, Complete Drawings, vol.3, 1940-49, Aldershot, 2001, no.AG43.107; HMF 2156, ills.p.196
Stanford, Iris & B Gerald Cantor Centre for Visual Arts, Stanford University, on loan, March 2000
This drawing is reminiscent of a work from the same period Reclining Figures: Ideas for Stone Sculpture, 1944, in which each figure appears in an individual pod in a subterranean setting, recalling the mysterious fascination that caves in hillsides and cliffs held for the artist. Moore’s interest in underground landscapes had previously been expressed in his ‘Shelter Drawings’ series of 1941, depicting figures taking refuge in the London Underground during the Blitz, and in his coal mining drawings of the same year.
Approaching Harvest, 1952
Oil on canvas
30.3 x 41 cm.
Signed and dated 'Reynolds 52' lower right
Redfern Gallery Ltd, London
Captain D. de Pass (purchased from the above 25 February 1953)
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London (no. 29595)
Private Collection, UK
Likely exhibited at: London, Redfern Gallery Ltd, Alan Reynolds, 1953, no.2
Alan Reynolds grew up in Suffolk, with its tradition of Gainsborough and Constable, and was drawn early to the landscape and to botany. Post-war he studied at Woolwich Polytechnic, then gained a scholarship to the Royal College of Art, but stayed only a year. He was already exhibiting at the Redfern, and his paintings – imbued with the spirit of Klee – were garnering acclaim. Such landscapes had as their basis a clear-eyed knowledge. Reynolds drew and painted assiduously from nature: grasses, seeds, dandelion clocks, growing tendrils and leaves. His studies, monochrome or coloured with gouache or watercolour, were annotated with neat ink observations about plant growth, crowded in margins or tentatively crossing the image. When Reynolds married Vona Darby, in 1957, his gift to her was an album filled with drawings, pressed flowers and seed pods. Yet such source material was neither collected nor plundered unthinkingly. Reynolds described his quest for structure as a process whereby a ‘subject or motif must be transformed and become an organic whole’.1 Reynolds’ stated aim can be linked to his passion for music, in particular fugues or contrapuntal textures. It is therefore not surprising that he was attuned also to the rhythm of nature, which follows a parallel cycle of statement, development, recapitulation and cadence. In the mid-1950s Reynolds painted a quartet of paintings based on the seasons, which extended to a satellite series of around ninety drawings, watercolours and preliminary studies in oils, exhibited at the Redfern Gallery in 1950’s. By coincidence, after Reynolds had begun this series the Contemporary Art Society invited some sixty British painters and sculptors to create a work based on ‘The Seasons’. The resulting exhibition was held at the Tate from March to April 1956, running concurrently with Reynolds’ solo exhibition at the Redfern.
The Tate purchased in the same year, Alan Reynold’s Summer: Young September’s Cornfield.
Approaching Harvest dates from this important period in Reynolds career, the organic forms a still life within the reduced but richly painted landscape. The rhythms of elements weave around the structure, requiring the viewer’s gaze to nimbly move across the patterned surface.
1.Reynolds, in Alan Reynolds, (London: Redfern Gallery, 1953
An Orchard by the Railway, 1945
Pen, ink, wash and gouache on paper
29 x 38 cm.
Signed and dated in pencil in the lower right of the painting. Inscribed on verso 'An orchard by the railway' / 'Gouache 1945' by the artist.
Gift from Vaughan to his friend the American artist Bernard Perlin (1918-2014)
Sir Jeffrey Tate
For the later part of the war Vaughan was stationed at Eden Camp, near Malton, in Yorkshire. Army life precluded him setting up a functioning studio in his barracks. Despite this significant limitation, he was determined to continue painting and reduced both the scale and the materials with which he worked. He produced a series of small paintings in gouache with additions of mixed media and described this combination as ‘ a volatile medium’ .
Vaughan’ s paintings from this period record his daily life in the army, the landscape around him and, occasionally, the activities of the local farmers, sowers and fruit-pickers. Schoolboys and young children also feature in his compositions, frequently accompanied by older figures, (see Yorkshire Lane with Figures, 1945, Orchard Scene with Boys Wrestling, 1945, Man and Child on the Moors, 1946). Here the two boys have been gathering fruit from the apple tree behind them. One has filled his wheelbarrow and the other holds his crop of fruit in his hands. An old man accompanies them, his walking stick in one hand as he raises up his other hand in surprise. All three have stopped in their tracks and look towards us, as though we have startled them. This viewer interaction is notable since it is an uncommon feature in Vaughan’ s work. The reason for it is explained in a letter from him to John Minton written from Eden Camp in July 1945:
Actually I’ ve been sparring around with some paintings lately. There’ s a wheelbarrow full of weeds and two people. The sun is shining. There is a gardener and two children in an orchard looking up at a passing train…here are the ochre and umber washes. Here comes the nervous sensitive line.
Translucent inky washes in the background contrast with the more detailed passages of drawing on the figures and tree. We are reminded of the ink drawings and paintings of trees and orchards by Samuel Palmer that were such an influence on the Neo-Romantic painters at this time. However, there is something more disturbing and unsettling in Vaughan’ s. Paintings such as An Orchard by the Railway contain neurotic atmospheres as though they represent scenes taken from a dream. The anxieties and uncertainties of the war, of course, add to this effect, as did Vaughan’ s troubled emotional life.