Last summer’s Modern British exhibition was a significant challenge with the various
lock downs restricting access to the gallery. Like all galleries we did what we could online with presentations and videos and virtual reality shows but we know deep down that our friends and collectors prefer the real thing and it is good news that the gallery is now open again. We have made a number of significant acquisitions since the beginning of 2020, and few of you will have been able to see them until now.
The gallery is open Monday to Friday, if possible do let us know if you would like to visit,
but not essential if you are passing. We are always happy to advise on collections, provide appraisals and general advice. We are not all in the gallery every day so please bear that in mind.
Standing Figure with Arm Sideways, 1956-57
41.75 x 17 x 8 cm.
Signed with initals 'KA' on base
Donald & Jean Stralem
(Donald Stralem was an American Investment Banker and Jean Stralem – a member of the Lehman family – together they amassed an extensive art collection)
T. Woollcombe (ed.), Kenneth Armitage: Life and Work, London, 1997, p. 144, no. KA63, as ‘Standing Woman with Arms Sideways’.
J. Scott and C. Milburn, The Sculpture of Kenneth Armitage, London, 2016, pp. 44, 109, no. 64, another cast illustrated.
A. Elliott (ed.), Kenneth Armitage Sculptor: A Centenary Celebration, Bristol, 2016, pp. 14, 81, pl. 54, another cast illustrated.
Venice, British Pavilion, XXIX Venice Biennale, June – September 1958, no. 29, another cast exhibited: this exhibition travelled to Paris, Musée National d’Art Moderne, November – December 1958; Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, January 1959; Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles, March 1959; Zurich, Kunsthaus, April 1959; and Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-Van Beuningen, June 1959.
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Kenneth Armitage: Retrospective Exhibition of Sculpture and Drawings based upon the XXIX Venice Biennale of 1958, July – August 1959, no. 29, another cast exhibited.
Beirut, British Council, American University, Recent British Sculpture: Robert Adams, Kenneth Armitage, Reg Butler, Lynn Chadwick, Hubert Dalwood, Barbara Hepworth, Bernard Meadows, Henry Moore, Eduardo Paolozzi, 1961, another cast exhibited: this exhibition travelled to Greece, 1961; Austria, 1962; Spain, 1963; Australia, 1965; Singapore, 1968; Cuba, 1970; Argentina, 1971; Brazil, 1973; Norway, 1974; and Malaysia, 1975.
Jordan, Amman, British Council, Jordan National Gallery, 40 Years of British Sculpture, 1981, another cast exhibited: this exhibition travelled to Zimbabwe, 1982; South Africa, 1983; Yugoslavia, 1986; Slovenia, 1986; Turkey, 1986; Greece, 1987; Egypt, 1988; Botswana 1988, Cyprus, 1988; New Zealand, 1989; Philippines, 1990; Canada, 1991-1992; Estonia, 1993; Riga, 1993; Lithuania, 1993; and Ukraine, 1994.
St Petersburg, British Council, A Changing World 50 Years of Sculpture from the British Council Collection, October – November 1994, another cast exhibited: this exhibition travelled to Moscow, April – May 1995; Prague, June – September 1995; Casablanca, January – March 1996; and Essen, April – June 1996.
Bath, British Council, Victoria Art Gallery, Kenneth Armitage 1916-2002 Centenary Sculpture Exhibition, September – November 2016, another cast exhibited: this exhibition travelled to Leeds, Leeds University, The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, March – July 2017.
Armitage had studied at art colleges before the war, initially with painting before setting out on the path of Moore-inspired carving and experimenting with bronze casting, when the war intervened. He taught tank and aircraft recognition during his war service, and the method of playing with flat silhouettes in the training exercises would translate, more subconsciously than consciously, into the sculpture than he began after the war. That method, which he clearly preferred, involved modelling in plaster on an iron armature, from which he could extend his abbreviated suggestions for heads and limbs.
Rejecting the all-roundness of Moore and Hepworth, his abstracted figure sculptures appeared to emerge out of a screen or a wall. The pin-heads and stub-limbs of ‘Family going for a Walk’ may draw on Picasso-esque distortions, but the sloping movement of the family is closer to the wit of Klee’s drawings. Armitage explained the attraction for him of joining the figures of the family together: ‘Two or three figures would be unified into one mass, and then I could arrange the arms and legs as I wanted, because if you look at a crowd, you do not count the arms and legs, you just see odd arms swinging and the odd leg moving. So I could use the arms as I wanted in the design of the maquette’.
In similar vein, the emaciated form of ‘Standing Figure’ obviously bears some resemblance to Giacometti’s post-war bronzes, but the schematic head and bulbous abdomen have a touch of the cheeky paintings of his contemporary Roger Hilton. Indeed the spirit of Hilton’s quasi-childlike abstractions can also be seen in other pieces such as agglomeration of figures in ‘The Seasons’, and his exaggerated disfiguration of the Moore-like ‘Seated Woman with square Head’. Effectively, Armitage’s drawings and gouaches, too, share the deliberate shorthand of the gruff, often interrupted graphic jottings and random patches of colour that characterised Hiltons’s rapid, energetic écriture.
These are not derivative works, as they all bear his unmistakeable character of brevity to convey the sensation of movement or stasis. They are also recognizably his in the relative flatness and frontality of each group of figures, and show how intelligently Armitage analysed the work of others such as Chadwick or the French sculptor César (in ‘Two Seated Figures’) or Klee, mentioned above, to create his own gently humorous vision of humankind.
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.
The Moor’s Bridge, Ronda, 1935
Oil on canvas
50.4 x 66 cm.
Signed and dated `Bomberg 35' lower right Also signed and inscribed verso on artist's label `Royal Academy Summer Exhibition No. 3/The Moors Bridge/Ronda/David Bomberg/41 Queens Gate Mews/Gloucester Road/Kensington/SW7.'
Purchased by Mr Greenwoods at the 1945 exhibition.
Mr Bernard Davies-Rees, London, by 1983.
Mr and Mrs Herbert L. Lucas, by 1988.
Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert, London
Private Collection, UK
Osborne Samuel, London
The Israel Museum, David Bomberg in Palestine 1923-1927 , Jerusalem, 1983, p. 33, no. 64.
Fischer Fine Art, David Bomberg 1890-1957: A Tribute to Lilian Bomberg , London, 1985, pp. 26-27, no. 59, illustrated.
R. Cork, David Bomberg , New Haven and London, 1987, pp. 209, 212, no. C37, illustrated.
R. Cork, exhibition catalogue, David Bomberg, London, Tate Gallery, 1988, p. 159, no. 124, illustrated.
London, Royal Academy, 1945, no. 3.
Reading, Museum and Art Gallery, David Bomberg and Lilian Holt, June – July 1971, no. 60.
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, David Bomberg: the Later Years, Sept – Oct 1979, no. 4.
Jerusalem, The Israel Museum, David Bomberg in Palestine 1923-1927 , Oct 1983 -Jan1984, no. 64.
London, Fischer Fine Art, David Bomberg 1890-1957: A Tribute to Lilian Bomberg , March – April 1985, no. 59.
Los Angeles, L.A. Louver Gallery, David Bomberg: A Survey of Paintings and Drawings , March 1986, no. 3.
London, Tate Gallery, David Bomberg , February – May 1988, no. 124.
At the end of 1934, David Bomberg and his future wife, the artist Lilian Holt, settled in Ronda. Lilian hoped that the town’ s dramatic topography might inspire Bomberg’ s work, in the same way as Toledo and Cuenca had earlier done. Her instinct proved well-founded. Bomberg not only considered Ronda the most interesting town in southern Spain, but was immediately struck by its surrounding amphitheatre of mountains and ‘ the gorge – a stupendous rent 250-300 ft wide & 400 ft deep’ .1
The ravine initiated a series of charcoal drawings emphasising the violence of the rock’ s fracturing. A mirroring of formations on either side suggested seismic rupture, while the river Guadalevin, coursing the gorge, might be imagined as constantly eroding its nether reach. Spanning the ravine was the ‘ Moor’ s Bridge’ : a monumental structure, built over a period of forty years during the eighteenth century, pierced with eye-like arches.
Lilian recalled the Ronda paintings as swiftly executed, often no more than a few hours’ intensive work.2 Several capture the Moor’ s Bridge, sometimes facing its gimlet visage, other times focusing on the rock-hewn citadel. The Moor’ s Bridge, Ronda 1935 places the bridge to the left of the composition, backlit by sun, the town clinging to the plateau’ s rim with scarcely a margin of sky. The subject of the painting thus becomes – through Bomberg’ s eyes – the overwhelming mass of riven, fissured rock.
1 David Bomberg (1936), in Richard Cork, David Bomberg (Yale University Press, 1987), p. 207-8.
2 Lilian Bomberg (1980), in Cork, David Bomberg , p. 209.
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).
Teddy Boy and Girl 1955 (Second Version 1974), 1974
190 x 65 x 60 cm.
Stamped with signature, numbered from the edition of 6, C170B and stamped P.E.
Edition of 6
The Artist’s Estate, from whom acquired by the previous owner, 2006
Their sale, Sotheby’s London, 9th June 2015, lot 19, where acquired by the present owner
Nico Koster & Paul Levine, Lynn Chadwick: The Sculptor and His World, SMD Informatief, Spruyt, Van Mantgem & De Does BV, Leiden, 1988, p.63 and 73 (another cast);
Dennis Farr and Eva Chadwick, Lynn Chadwick Sculptor, With A Complete Illustrated Catalogue, Lund Humphries, London, 2014, cat. no.170B, illustrated p.122 (another cast)
Among the series of dancing couples Chadwick created, from 1954 onwards, Teddy Boy and Girl proved the most provocative. The very act of plucking a title from popular culture seemed calculated to raise critics’ hackles – a ‘catchpenny’ trick as guileful as a song’s refrain. For Chadwick it reflected both the playfulness often evident in his sculpture and a narrowing of the distance between art and reality: a confrontation that proved increasingly fertile. Such clashes could be merely allusive – in titles such as Later Alligator or Moon of Alabama – or, as in the case of Teddy Boy and Girl, point to imagery derived fundamentally from contemporary visual culture.
Chadwick exhibited a contemporary version to this cast at the Venice Biennale in 1956, the year he won the coveted Sculpture Prize and was catapulted onto an international
(Boy with Goat), 1970
Acrylic on canvas
60.3 x 45 cm.
The Estate of the Artist
John Craxton painted this iconic image of a Cretan shepherd soon after his return to Greece following a decade of exile forced by the military junta in Athens. It became the prototype for a series of celebratory works, and especially for a pair of monumental Voskos (Shepherd) paintings produced in the 1980s. Modelled by one of the artist’s many goatherd friends in the White Mountains of Crete, the figure also takes on historical and mythological overtones. Greatly inspired by scenes of wild bull capture on a Minoan gold cup discovered in a royal tomb at Vapheio in Sparta, the artist reworked the ancient drama for a reflection on enduring life in the Greek countryside.
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’.
Figure with Mirror and Easel, 1962
Oil on canvas
182.88 x 137.16 cm.
The development of Kinley’s work, by the early 1960s, was evident in two solo exhibitions at Paul Rosenberg & Co., East Seventy-ninth Street, New York. Reviewing the first, Stuart Preston had reservations about Kinley’s highly abstracted figure, landscape and still-life subjects, ‘knifed on to the canvas’. ₁ A second review, in 1962, detected ‘a far sterner and more streamlined approach’:
A strong sense of geometrical planning, dispensing with any realistic superficialities, underlies these powerfully impersonal conceptions, where faces are all but erased and human personality dependent for realization on pose and gesture. ²
This was the year in which Figure with Mirror and Easel (1962) was painted, one of several to address this theme. The figure is treated monumentally, quasi-sculpturally – endowed with weight, yet no more than a silhouette. In a composition approaching life-size, Kinley deftly juxtaposes slabs and bands of colour to create an image riddled with uncertainty. The mirror, reflecting the figure, reflects also an unseen space.
₁ Stuart Preston, ‘Art: Gallery Variety’, The New York Times (14 January 1961), p. 47.
² Stuart Preston, ‘The Week’s International Scope’, The New York Times (11 November 1962), p. 161.
Bronze with brown patina
157 x 54 x 40 cm.
Signed, dated twice & inscribed 'Unikat' verso
Private Collection, Switzerland
Five slightly varying versions recorded, this unique work was the first one. (other versions are within the collections at the Tate, London, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh and Jesus College, Cambridge.
This work is recorded in the archives compiled by the late Professor Robin Spencer.
The myth of Daedalus and Icarus is a gift to sculptors: dramatic, tragic and containing vivid imagery. Daedalus was a maze-maker and master craftsman; Icarus his feckless son, who flew too close to the sun with wings his father made from feathers and wax. Their story was retold superbly by Paolozzi’s contemporary, Michael Ayrton, who translated its figures, also, to sculpture.
Paolozzi made his first versions of Daedalus and Icarus in 1949: reliefs and abstract constructions, consisting of tables, through which pegs, cross-bars and funnel shapes were inserted at right angles. He returned to Icarus in 1957, creating two large bronzes, each with pitiful stumps for wings. Daedalus (1990) is an emphatically figurative response, however, broached in the robust, mechanical vein of Paolozzi’s later work. Using a variation on the collage process, which had long fascinated him, Paolozzi would construct a form then fragment it – by slicing vertically and horizontally into geometrical parts – before reassembling. The method generated multiple options for reconstruction, which Paolozzi would capitalise upon by casting different permutations as he worked, thus creating series of ‘unique’ works on a theme. With Daedalus, there are five different versions, some mounted on wheeled trolleys.
In this, the first of the series, Daedalus holds two sections of a rod at shoulder height, and stands with each foot on a separate base, one in front of the other. According to legend, Daedalus’ statues were so lifelike they had to be tethered, lest they wandered free – a characteristic supposedly derived from their posture, feet staggered, as if ‘walking’. Paolozzi’s figure echoes this stance through its unevenly distributed weight. Rich in association, Daedalus has been suggested also as a self-portrait: Paolozzi, sculptor and master craftsman. ₁
₁ Judith Collins, Eduardo Paolozzi (Farnham: Lund Humphries, 2014), p. 285.
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
Leaf Venus 2, 1986
Bronze on York stone base
132 x 41 x 20.5 cm.
Signed with monogram, stamped with foundry mark, dated and numbered from the edition of 4
Edition of 4
Waddington Galleries, London
Ann Kendall Richards, New York, June 2000
Private Collection, USA
Osborne Samuel, London
Exhibition catalogue, William Turnbull: Sculptures 1946-62, 1985-87, London, Waddington Galleries, 1987, p. 53, no. 20, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, William Turnbull Neue Skulpturen, Berlin, Galerie Michael Haas, 1992, no. 5, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, William Turnbull: Sculpture and Paintings, London, Serpentine Gallery, 1995, p. 65, pl. 45, another cast illustrated.
A.A. Davidson, The Sculpture of William Turnbull, Much Hadham, 2005, pp. 51-52, 68, 168, no. 240, another cast illustrated.
London, Waddington Galleries, William Turnbull: Sculptures 1946-62, 1985-87, October – November 1987, no. 20, p.53
Annely Juda Fine Art, From Picasso to Abstraction, June – September 1989
Berlin, Galerie Michael Haas, William Turnbull Neue Skulpturen, October – November 1992, no. 5
London, Serpentine Gallery, William Turnbull: Bronze Idols and Untitled Paintings, Nov. 1995 – Jan.1996, no.45, p.65
Barbara Mathes Gallery, New York, William Turnbull, October – November, 1998
Encountering Leaf Venus 2, what does it suggest? Leaf, or goddess? Close to human scale, its blade-thin, verdigris form is marked by sparse, discreet indentations.
William Turnbull began to make ‘Idols’ in the mid-1950s: simplified structures whose totality could be grasped in a glance. Their presence was primal, evoking – though not mimicking – works from other civilisations. At the British Museum, Turnbull had studied Cycladic and African sculpture, as well as utilitarian objects, such as spoons, which possessed symbolic significance. His contribution to the radical exhibition ‘This is Tomorrow’, in 1956, was Sun Gazer, a mysterious ovoid on a pedestal. Turnbull amplified his intention in the catalogue:
Sculpture used to look ‘modern’; now we make objects that might have been dug up at any point in the past forty thousand years. Sculpture = totemic object. It can exist inside or outside architectural space.
In 1979, after a gap of seventeen years, Turnbull returned to making ‘Idols’ in bronze, fashioning a series of small masks, figures and torsos. The continuity with earlier work is evident, yet there is also difference. In sculptures from the mid-1980s onwards, such as Leaf Venus 2, sculptural weight and solidity have been replaced by slenderness: an audacious balancing of wafer-thin forms. Considering such works, David Sylvester recalled Turnbull’s question, ‘How little will suggest a head?’, invoking by comparison the artist’s emptied-out canvases of the 1950s, in which brush-strokes activate monochrome surfaces.
Amanda Davidson, in The Sculpture of William Turnbull, links the origin of Leaf Venus 2 to drawings of plants made in Singapore in 1963. 1. Turnbull related it to skateboards used by his sons; a jarring cultural appropriation, but correlating neatly with Leaf Venus’s form, its slim volume and gently curved surfaces. David Sylvester further suggested aircraft wings, which had been a visual constant during Turnbull’s four years as a wartime pilot in the RAF. 2. All are possible, indeed likely.
Sun Gazer (1959), as distinct from the 1956 sculpture of the same title, was sited outside Kingsdale School as part of an initiative by the London County Council’s Architect’s Department ‘to expose children to the most challenging and experimental manifestations of contemporary art’. 3. Sun Gazer relates directly to Leaf Venus 2. Horizontal rather than vertical, it is essentially a slim leaf form, with ridged and gashed surface markings, although the depth and legibility of this scarring is greater.
In Eugene Rosenberg’s photograph of Sun Gazer (1959), a girl in school uniform studies the sculpture. A young teacher looks on, while further pupils can be seen watching from open windows on the upper floor. We can never know what they were thinking, but the placement of the sculpture, against the modernist brick, steel and concrete architecture of Leslie Martin, is undoubtedly daring. Light, and the skilful black-and-white photograph, emphasise the strangeness of Turnbull’s sculpture – a space-age found object.
The challenge, with the smoother-surfaced Leaf Venus 2, is to register its presence through photographs: the sculpture’s surface lines and dots, ciphers across and around its slender mass, may all too easily be easily missed. Such markings subdivide the leaf, providing symmetry (dots in the centre, lines to the perimeter). Yet the effect, as with Sun Gazer, remains equivocal. Leaf Venus 2 is an object both self-sufficient and referential, clearly articulated and numinous.
1.Amanda A. Davidson, The Sculpture of William Turnbull (Aldershot: The Henry Moore Foundation in association with Lund Humphries, 2005), p. 52.
2. David Sylvester, ‘Bronze Idols and Untitled Paintings’, in William Turnbull: sculpture and paintings (London: Merrell Holberton Publishers and the Serpentine Gallery, 1995), unpaginated.
3. Richard Cork, in Architect’s Choice: Art and Architecture in Great Britain since 1945 (London: Thames and Hudson, 1992), p. 34, illustrated p. 35.
Road to the Sea (Foreshore), 1953-1958
Oil on paper on board
26 x 37 cm.
Titled verso in the artist's hand, with exhibition labels
Royal West of England Academy, 1958
Laurence Ogilvie Esq, purchased from above
Private Collection, UK
Massey & Hepworth, Keith Vaughan, The Mature Oils 1946-77, Sansom & Company, Bristol, 2012, p.110, cat no. AH274
Royal West of England Academy, Bristol, Spring Exhibition, 1958, cat.no. 104
Bath Festival Exhibition, Loan Exhibition of Paintings from Private Collections, June, 1963, cat. no.33
Bristol City Art Gallery, 1987-1990
The genesis of Road to the Sea (Foreshore) has been clarified by Gerard Hastings. A painting originally titled Foreshore (1953) was altered and reworked by Vaughan in 1958 – removing an upturned boat in the foreground – prior to inclusion in that year’s Spring Exhibition at the Royal West of England Academy, Bristol.₁ It thus takes its context among Vaughan’s numerous visits to Ireland in the late 1950s, and particularly in relation to his journey around the West Coast, north to Donegal, in September 1957. Vaughan made numerous sketches which he later elaborated in his studio at Belsize Park in London, noting at the time,
I seem to be purposefully trying to make a composition of mutual contradictions. Figures which aren’t figures, landscape space which is something else, shapes which are neither abstract nor figurative.²
In Road to the Sea (Foreshore), Vaughan presents the familiar image of a single figure, facing outwards, amid a setting that Hastings reads as a deserted cove, enclosed by steep rocks and mossy cliffs. The tone is muted, the landscape abstracted in blocks of colour, while the figure crooks its left arm, perhaps to hold an object, or to check the time. There is no sense of which direction this figure has taken, or why it has paused. On this small scale, Vaughan makes every brushstroke tell, through its direction and viscosity. The sky, scoured with implication, lightens indecisively at the horizon.
₁ Gerard Hastings, ‘Keith Vaughan: Myth, Mortality and the Male Figure’, in Keith Vaughan: Myth, Mortality and the Male Figure, exhibition catalogue (London: Osborne Samuel, 2019), p. 12.
² Keith Vaughan, Journal (27 November 1957), from Keith Vaughan, Journal and Drawings 1939–1965 (London: Alan Ross, 1966), p. 146.