This year’s edition of Masterpiece will be an online event. We will present selected works from our Modern British exhibition in the gallery.
Head of JYM III, 1980
Chalk and charcoal on paper
76.2 x 58.4 cm.
Marlborough Fine Art, London
Private Collection (purchased from the above)
William Feaver, Frank Auerbach, published by Rizzoli, no. 428
Frank Auerbach ‘Recent Work’ 13 January – 11 February, 1983, Cat No 31, Marlborough Fine Art, London
Auerbach met Juliet Yardley Mills in 1956, when she was working as a model at Sidcup College of Art. He began to paint her the following year, and continued to do so, at his studio in Camden, every Wednesday and Sunday, until 1997. As with all his repeated sitters, Auerbach developed an acute awareness of posture and mood:
I notice something when people first come and sit and think, they do things with their faces. It’s when they’ve become tired and stoical the essential head becomes clearer. They become more themselves as they become tired. ₁
JYM was an ideal sitter, capable of holding poses for long periods of time. At first Auerbach painted her without identification in his titles, although she is distinguishable from his previous frequent subject, Stella West (EOW). A characteristic pose shows JYM seated, her head against the back of the chair or supported by linked hands. As Robert Hughes notes, she always returns the artist’s gaze, and ‘there is a look – head cocked back, sometimes seen a little from below, a bit quizzical, sometimes challenging – that makes [her portraits] quite recognizable as a series’. ₂
Auerbach’s drawings evolve and assume their final form across weeks of sittings. A day’s work may be scrubbed back, the following morning, to leave an accumulated deposit of charcoal. In some cases the paper wears perilously thin and needs to be patched. The finished drawing represents the last sitting, the most recent thoughts, yet Auerbach feels compelled to retain the accumulated traces as part of a process of securing the image within its own space and atmosphere. ₃
Head of JYM III gazes partially downwards. There is a weight and solidity that derives from the density of charcoal, implying the settled mass of the sitter, at ease, one shoulder higher than the other. The volume of her head is registered through its eye sockets, cheekbones and chin. Through these we gain an intuition of its totality, and how it might feel to follow the head round, past its visible limits.
₁ William Feaver, Frank Auerbach (Rizzoli, 2009), p. 20.
₂ Robert Hughes, Frank Auerbach (London: Thames & Hudson, 1990), p. 80.
₃ Feaver, Frank Auerbach, p. 19.
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).
Maquette V Two Winged Figures, 1973
48.2 x 44 x 23 cm.
Stamped with artist's monogram, 'CHADWICK', reference number 672, dated and numbered from the edition
Edition of 6
André Simoens Knokke
Lex Daniels, Amsterdam
Bought from Simoens early 80s
Dennis Farr & Éva Chadwick, Lynn Chadwick, Sculptor, Lund Humphries, Farnham, 2014, p.297, cat.no.672
The winged figure, often presented as a pair, threads through Chadwick’s sculpture from the mid-1950s onwards. Early examples often danced in duet, their wings splayed in courtship ritual. In 1962, Chadwick transformed the idea completely, starkly abstracting its form to resemble aeroplane wings: Two Winged Figures, constructed from plate steel at an industrial works in Italy, and painted bright yellow and black, towered above the viewer.
If there was always a dialogue between the human and the machine, by the early 1970s Chadwick’s imagery had settled in favour of the former. Maquette V Two Winged Figures (1973) is, on balance, more human than otherwise. The wings, folded downwards, resemble robes. The female figure is clearly identifiable as such, broad-hipped and round-breasted, while the square shoulders of the male figure determine the geometric fall of his tunic and wings. But the head? So often in Chadwick’s sculpture this is where ambiguity concentrates. Heads resemble beaks, science-fiction jaws, insectoid mandibles, square television monitors. Sometimes they are reduced almost to invisibility, seeding doubt as to their sentience. In Maquette V Two Winged Figures, characteristically, Chadwick uses a cube and pyramid to denote difference. Proportionally in relation to each figure’s torso, and borne erect, they give cause for reassurance – yet the frisson of alterity persists.
Oblique I, 1978
Oil on canvas
76 x 76 cm.
The New Art Centre, London, no:106/25
For paintings such as Oblique I, inspiration came from surprising and unexpected sources. Clough’s ‘source photos’ and sketchbooks indicate that a patch of worn paint or tarmac might generate a compositional idea or even an entire painting. Thickly painted, thermoplastic road markings on a familiar walk, could easily find themselves rearranged and transferred to one of her paintings. Similarly, a row of twisted, steel rebars sticking out of a reinforced concrete wall could catch her eye. The random positioning of the hook profiles here set up a rhythmic idea which contrasts with the more angular, geometric patterning.
A curious feature of Clough’s technique was not only the manner in which she applied pigment, but also the way in which she removed it from surface of her canvasses; this was part of a never-ending quest to create interesting surface textures. Paint would be scraped and gouged off the surface while it was still wet, or even after it had dried and abrasive scourers would be used to scrub away a patch of pigment to achieved a more varied and pictorially interesting effect.
Dancer in a Landscape, 1943
Pencil, charcoal and conté crayon and gouache on paper
45.9 x 58.65 cm.
Christopher Hull Gallery
Private collection, UK 1992
Private Collection, UK
Ian Collins, John Craxton, Lund Humphries, Farnham, 2011, p.49, illustrated pl.43
Dancer in a Landscape belongs to a series of images, painted or drawn by Craxton in the early 1940s, depicting solitary figures. He later described them as projections of himself, ‘derived from Blake and Palmer. They were my means of escape and a sort of self protection. A shepherd is a lone figure, and so is a poet.’ ₁
Poet in a Landscape and Dreamer in Landscape (now in the Tate collection) are dense pen and ink drawings, reproduced in Horizon in March 1942. In each, a seated figure appears oblivious of the encroaching vegetation, gnarled trunks and roots. Craxton’s lithographs for The Poet’s Eye (1944) likewise depict tin-helmeted figures, seated, lost in reverie amid moonlit landscapes, or half-concealed within trees.
By contrast, Dancer in a Landscape is lighter in mood. In the summer of 1943 Craxton travelled with Peter Watson and Graham Sutherland to St David’s Head in Pembrokeshire, where he sketched alongside Sutherland. As he recalled,
There were cloudless days and the land was reduced to basic elements of rocks, fig trees, gorse, the nearness of sea on all sides, a brilliant clear light. Everything was stripped away – all the verbiage, that is – to the essential sources of existence. ₂
This simplification is apparent in the clarity and lightness of Dancer in a Landscape. There is a joyous sense of movement in the depiction of the river, tussocks of grass, and soft shading of the figure, as well as the delicately feathered tree and spidery clouds. Throughout the composition, Craxton seems to delight in the possibilities of mark-making, lightening with chalk and adding touches of green and sepia
₁ John Craxton, in ‘John Craxton: Paintings and Drawings 1941–1966’, exhibition catalogue (Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1967), p. 6.
₂ Craxton, ibid.
November 58, 1958
Oil and gouache on paper
70 x 45 cm.
Signed and dated lower right
The Waddington Galleries, London
Private Collection, UK (purchased from the above by an long term employee of the gallery)
Offer Waterman & Co, London
Private Collection, UK
The Waddington Galleries, London
Offer Waterman & Co, London
‘My main interest, in my painting, has always been in colour, space and light…and space in colour is the subject of my painting today to the exclusion of everything else’
Patrick Heron 1958
In 1956 Heron returned to Cornwall after spending over a decade in London and inspired by the gardens surrounding his new home Eagles Nest, he began his ‘stripe paintings’ and his first ‘garden paintings.’ The development from his figurative work was in part a response to the work of American Abstract Expressionists whose work he saw as bringing ‘a new kind of energy and inventiveness’, but also from the continual influence of the great French colourists Bonnard and Matisse. From 1958 he began to paint fields of colour containing soft edged squares and discs. In 1963 the critic Norbert Lynton wrote the defining phrase about Heron’s latest paintings, ‘it is not possible even to distinguish significantly between the forms and the colour fields they inhabit’.
Ten Studies for Family Group, 1949-50
Pencil, ink and gouache on paper
29.2 x 24.2 cm.
Signed and dated 'Moore 49' recto and signed and dated verso 'Moore 50.'
Fischer Fine Art, London
A,Garrould, Henry Moore, Complete Drawings 1940-1949, Vol.3, Much Hadham, 2001, p. 276, no. AG 47-49.79; HMF 2468
D. Mitchinson, Henry Moore: Prints and Portfolios, Geneva 2010
Verso: ‘Study for Family Group’
Coloured crayon, wax crayon, watercolour wash
The sketch on verso is used in the 1949 collograph CGM 5
A group of a dozen or more maquettes owes its origin to an unrealised commission for Impington Village College, in Cambridgeshire. When the educationalist Henry Morris approached Moore, in the 1930s, it was with an inspirational vision to create a centre for the surrounding villages, designed by the architect Walter Gropius, to integrate art, music, lectures, plays and films into everyday life. Moore instantly lighted upon the subject of the family, as most appropriate. Although funds proved insufficient to fulfil the project at the time, the idea took root. In 1944, Morris again contacted Moore, who began to make sketches, then maquettes of family groups. Some were intended to be enlarged as bronze sculptures, but most were envisaged as stone carvings, Moore’s preferred medium for Impington. After nine months’ work, however, the project foundered, partly through lack of money, and partly due to the Education Authority’s lack of enthusiasm for Moore’s maquettes. Some years later, the ideas were developed as two significant commissions: Family Group (1948-9), in bronze for Barclay School in Stevenage, and Family Group (1954-5), in stone for Harlow New Town.1
Contemplating the Impington commission, Moore filled two sketchbooks with family groups. The compositions varied between one- and two-children families, with the children (of different ages) seated or standing. Some are more abstract than others, some figures contain holes, others have vestigial or split heads. The female figure is often swathed in a shawl or dress, and sometimes a blanket is draped, tenderly, over both figures’ knees. Moore regarded these sketches not only as generating ideas for sculpture but as a means of clarifying the subject in his mind: with a battery of possibilities before him, he could choose which to refine and take forward. In conversation with David Sylvester, Moore later identified the family group as his last significant subject to be developed through this process of drawing. 2
1 See Moore, in Alan Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations (Aldershot: Lund Humphries, 2002), p. 89, 273-5.
2 Henry Moore in ‘Henry Moore Talking to David Sylvester’ (7 June 1963), BBC Third Programme. See also Alice Correia, ‘Maquette for Family Group 1945 by Henry Moore OM, CH’, Tate Research Publications (2014)
Mother and Child: Round Form, 1980
19.7 x 11 x 13.6 cm.
Signed and numbered from the edition on the back edge of the bronze base
Edition of 9
Private Collection, New York (acquired directly from the artist)
Private Collection, New York (and sold: Sotheby’s, New York, November 13, 1996, lot 314)
Private Collection, London (acquired at the above sale)
Jeanne Frank Gallery, New York
Private Collection (Acquired from the above on March 17, 1997)
Private Collection, London
Alan Bowness, ed., Henry Moore, Complete Sculpture, 1980-1986, vol. 6, London, 1988, p. 51, no. 789, illustration of another cast pl. 38
Dimensions include the artist’s bronze base
A cast from the edition is owned by the The Yale Center for British Art, USA
Reviewing Moore’s eightieth-birthday exhibition at Fischer Fine Art, which juxtaposed recent sculptures with those from the 1920s and ’30s, John Glaves-Smith drew attention to the persistence of the rounded female figures. Even in the interwar period, when women – deprived of calories, then taking up tennis and hockey – strove for the boyishly svelte silhouette of the ‘flapper’, Moore’s figures remained ample, replete with curves. ₁ The most salient exception would be his post-war Mother and Child (1953), a tense pairing in which the child appears to peck, ravenously, at its mother’s breast. In this composition, the mother strains away from the child, her waist attenuated, her head serrated in defence.
Mother and Child Round Form (1980) demonstrates the persistence of Moore’s monumental vision. The female figure is non-sexualised, seeming to exist only in relation to the child, whom she regards intently. The composition centres on the child, its mother arguably providing little more than a context: a support. To this end, the female figure is largely devoid of non-essential detail. There is the merest indication of breasts, and hands to clasp. Legs, lacking purpose, are truncated, while weight sediments towards the cushion of the mother’s lap. The effect is far from stolid, however. As almost invariably with the subject of mother and child, Moore imbues the composition with timelessness and universality.
₁ John Glaves-Smith, ‘Exhibitions: Henry Moore’, Art Monthly (September 1978), p. 19.
Greens & Blues with Red, Orange Contrasts, 1985
Gouache on paper
27 x 30 cm.
Titled, signed and dated lower margin in pencil
Private Collection, UK
Osborne Samuel, London
Private Collection, Canada (purchased from the above 2012)
In the original plexi boxed frame.
During a trip to the Nile in the winter of 1979–80, Riley became aware of five colours in the tomb paintings in the Valley of the Kings, which she perceived as recurring in all aspects of Egyptian life. This palette – consisting of red, blue, yellow, turquoise and green – remained strongly in her memory, and began to direct a new method of organising her work. As Riley recalled,
I returned to a broader stripe or band, but the growing complexity of the colour relationships required further changes. It is part of a painter’s work to be aware of the role that distance plays in the viewer’s experience. Ecclesia (1985) seen close up shows a particular group of painted colours. Each band has a clear identity. Step back and the colours begin to interact, further away still a field of closely modulated harmonies cut by strong contrasts opens up. … I used cut bands of painted paper in a collage technique to adjust, change and move colours around. ₁
Riley was exploring two aspects: the physical identity of the stripes’ colour, and the visual experience of their relationship, one to another. Working on paper, Riley made studies to examine the different rhythms of repeated, varied and disrupted sequences, often with the analogy of music in mind. Sometimes, she would insert breaks, such as the repeated black stripe in Silvered (1981).
In the gouache study, Greens and blues with Red orange contrasts (1985), the break is a physical one, allowing each section to be seen both on its own terms and in conjunction. A process of distillation works from left to right; defining and isolating the core motif.
₁ Bridget Riley, ‘At the end of my pencil’, London Review of Books, Vol. 31, No. 19 (8 October 2019). Riley’s Ecclesia (1985) is in the Arts Council Collection.
Thorn Trees, Spring, 1967
Oil on canvas
54.61 x 45.69 cm.
Signed and dated upper left Also signed with initials, inscribed, dedicated and dated again 'P.A and FRAU ADE/a souvenir/of/11 March 1967/with friendship./G.S. 30.V.67/THORN TREES. SPRING' verso
Mr & Mrs Peter Ade, München
Thence by descent
Private Collection, Germany
PA are the initials of Peter Ade, the Director of Haus der Kunst in München . A gift by the artist in recognition of the assistance Peter Ade gave with a travelling exhibition of Sutherland’s work in 1967. ( Haus der Kunst München, 11. March – 7. May 1967; Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, 2. June – 30. July 1967; Haus am Waldsee Berlin, 11. August – 24. September 1967; Wallraf-Richartz-Museum Köln, 7. October – 20. November, 1967.)
This painting clearly relates in structure to two earlier versions of the same subject from the 1940’s, one now held in the British Council and the second at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, New York).
In the 1940s Sutherland began a series of paintings based on thorns. Walking in the country, and preoccupied with a commission for a Crucifixion , he began to notice ‘ thorn bushes and the structure of thorns, which pierced the air in all directions, their points establishing limits of aerial space’ . Drawing them, he observed a strange transformation take place: the thorns rearranged themselves into ‘ a paraphrase of the Crucifixion and the Crucified Head – the cruelty’ .1 Kenneth Clark described the resulting trees, heads and crosses as akin to metaphors in poetry, their freely created forms more vivid and personal for using imagery not already ‘ deadened by use’ .2
The context for these works for Sutherland, a Catholic, was deeply meaningful. In the early post-war years he received commissions from the Reverend Walter Hussey for a Crucifixion and Noli me tangere , respectively for St Matthew’ s, Northampton, and Chichester Cathedral. More significant still was the tapestry commissioned by Basil Spence as a focal point for the new Cathedral at Coventry (1962), a monumental sign of hope abutting the ruins of its war-blasted predecessor. At Coventry, Sutherland’ s Christ in Majesty was complemented sensitively by an altar set from Geoffrey Clarke, itself alluding to the bitter piercing of thorns.
Among Sutherland’ s ‘ thorn’ paintings, a cluster of Thorn Crosses evokes altar sets. The trinity of forms in Thorn Trees, Spring (1967) likewise suggests a cross and candlesticks, or perhaps a crucifixion witnessed by mourners: such is the malleability and suggestibility of Sutherland’ s imagery. Especially potent is the painting’ s confluence of death and renewal – sere thorns cloaked in the verdure of a fresh season. The contrast was one Sutherland had originally hoped to exploit in his commission for St Matthew’ s, Northampton, as he explained:
I would have liked to paint the Crucifixion against a blue sky … in benign circumstances: blue skies, green grass, Crucifixion[s] under warmth – and blue skies are, in a sense, more powerfully horrifying.3
1. Graham Sutherland, ‘ Thoughts on Painting’ , The Listener (6 September 1951), p. 378, quoted in ‘ An Exhibition of Painting and Drawings by Graham Sutherland’ (Arts Council and Tate Gallery, 1953), unpaginated.
2. Kenneth Clark, introduction to ‘ An Exhibition of Painting and Drawings by Graham Sutherland’ (Arts Council and Tate Gallery, 1953), unpaginated.
3. Sutherland, ‘ Thoughts on Painting’ , The Listener (6 September 1951), republished in Graham Sutherland, Correspondences: Selected Writings on Art , ed. Julian Andrews (Graham and Kathleen Sutherland Foundation, 1982), p. 73.
Female Figure, 1988, 1988
190.5 x 101.6 x 50.8 cm.
Signed and numbered from the edition of 6
Edition of 6
Waddington Galleries Ltd, London
Private Collection USA, purchased from the above in 1989
Osborne Samuel, London
Private Collection, Canada (purchased from the above in 2014)
Davidson, Amanda, The Sculpture of William Turnbull , published by Lund Humphries, 2005, p.175, no. 263
Waddington Galleries, Solo exhibition, 1991, cat 9 (illus. p.23)
The idols Turnbull made in the 1980s revisit forms from the 1950s, demonstrating an essential seam within his sculptural thinking. Female Figure (1980) presents a vertical slab, scrolled at the top to suggest a head, gently scored towards the base to imply a robe. Arms become curved pipes, a counter-positioned wedge suggests feet, but the most salient feature is the figure’s breasts, implausibly and voluptuously placed.
The figure clearly suggests fertility: a goddess or idol, resonating with both ancient and more recent history. In rituals – whether pagan or religious – the chalice or jug is often equated with birth, as a parallel to the pregnant figure. One of the most significant transferences within modern sculpture is Germaine Richier’s L’Eau (1953), or Water, in which she incorporated the fragment of a terracotta amphora, found on a beach at Camargue, as the neck of a seated figure. The hooped handles of the vessel, just as the arms of Turnbull’s Female Figure, evoke a symbolic link to water, a source for life.
Slim in profile, despite its towering height and material heft, Female Figure evinces both grace and a sense of joyousness, expressed by its arms – curved, hand on hip, or open to embrace. There is a recapturing, too, of the spirit of Acrobat (1951), made at the beginning of Turnbull’s career, who balances exuberantly and fearlessly, arms outstretched.