Conceived in 1985 during one of his most prolific periods Jubilee IV is a masterpiece by Chadwick. Standing at over 8 feet high it is one of the largest monumental pieces by the artist, and epitomises both his unique visual vocabulary and one of his most renowned subjects. Bursting with dynamism and forward movement the present work stands as one of Chadwick’s rarest works, having never been offered for sale at auction before, with other casts in the collections of The Jerusalem Foundation, in Jerusalem, and the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Sofia Imber, in Caracas, Venezuela. During this period Chadwick reflected on his career, looking back at the ground-breaking exhibition at the XXVIII Venice Biennale, in 1956, where he was awarded the prestigious International Grand Prix for Sculpture. It was this victory that truly launched Chadwick to international prominence, earning him a wealth of critical praise around the world, and cementing his position as a leading figure in the artistic landscape of post-war Britain.
During the 1950s, Chadwick introduced coupled figures into his oeuvre, a subject that would continue to preoccupy him throughout his career. Chadwick bestowed his figures with symbols of gender, knowingly or not referring his work to the canons of ancient art. As with the Egyptian examples, Jubilee IV is marked by a clear division of gender, the forms and accoutrements of the figures suggesting a male-female coupling. This is revealed most clearly in the treatment of the forms – the woman is more lightly built, her shoulders sloping at a gentler angle and her body appearing softer and rounder than that of her male partner. He, in turn, occupies a weightier stance, his mass and angularity more forcefully expressed, while the addition of a deep fissure to his body, which runs the length of his torso, reveals a sharper sense of form. In addition to this, the artist incorporates geometric symbols into his sculpture in order to identify the gender of his characters, applying two differently shaped heads to each. A common feature of his idiosyncratic artistic vocabulary, the square or cube typically denotes a male character, while the triangular or pyramidal shape is used to identify a female one.
Chadwick explained: ‘At first I gave the rectangular heads to both genders. Then I thought, that’s not quite fair – I ought to give the female one a different head. I made the female head a pyramid so that the tip of the pyramid was just slightly higher than the male one, but the mass of the female one was slightly lower than the head of the male, so as to balance it not only from the point of view of gender but from the point of view of masses’ (L. Chadwick, quoted in E. Lucie-Smith, Chadwick, Stroud, 1997, p. 98).
This balance of mass was fundamental to Chadwick. Indeed, within his works there lies a series of balancing idioms, with the artist playing with the parameters of mass and space; angular and organic forms; and the naturalistic and abstract. Chadwick explained the importance of such practice, ‘In the mobiles you have the arm, and you balance two things on it like scales – you have a weight at one end and an object at the other end. If you have a heavy weight close to the fulcrum then you can have a light thing at the other end. So you can [similarly] balance the visual weight of two objects. And so it was interesting to balance male with female. To me, I was balancing them, I suppose, psychologically, or whatever it was’ (L. Chadwick, quoted in ibid., p. 98).
One of his most effective methods of addressing these different vernaculars was through the introduction of garments in his works, as seen to dramatic effect in the Jubilee IV. Here Chadwick not only uses these vestments to further delineate the distinction between male and female, with the vestiges of a dress in the female figure and the allusion of a shirt in her male counterpart; the sharp, angular rectangles arranged diagonally across his collar bone, indicative of a collar, but also as a means of imbuing a sense of movement and dynamism in his work.
Inherently dramatic, Chadwick grants the present work with a wonderful sense of motion, with the artist propelling his figures forward as their robes billow out behind them, as if caught in an invisible wind. Thus setting his figures in a tangible space and fleeting moment in time. Chadwick relished in the manipulation of forms and line these cloaks afforded him, highlighted to particularly striking effect in Jubilee IV, where the wonderful angular shapes of the robes are reminiscent of the rhetoric of the Italian Futurists and Umberto Boccioni’s Unique Forms of Continuity of Space (1913), which explores the portrayal of movement through space.
Edward Lucie-Smith describes, ‘The restless stirring of their vast cloaks enables them to make their own weather – where they are it is always windy, however still the weather. One notices how Chadwick’s characteristically crisp, sharp outlines seem to cut into the surrounding atmosphere. Far from mimicking nature, and, so to speak, becoming part of it, as some of Henry Moore’s large sculptures seem to do when placed outdoors, Chadwick’s work sets itself almost aggressively in opposition to its surroundings’ (E. Lucie-Smith, Chadwick, Stroud, 1997, pp. 111-112). While Chadwick stated, ‘Later I made this flowing coat evolve into ripples and later into a blown effect … like academic gowns blowing out behind’. Chadwick explained the effect of this stating that it gave him the opportunity to ‘get curves into my work … I made the outline of the cloak into a curved or multi-carved surface, or line rather, and joined them up so that I got interior volumes, sort of hollows which had a shaped outline’ (L. Chadwick, quoted in M. Bird, Lynn Chadwick, Farnham, 2014, p. 150).
This exploration of movement was particularly prolific in the 1980s, with Chadwick pushing this investigation to new parameters, as seen in Jubilee IV and his High Wind series. However, Dennis Farr and Eva Chadwick explain that this was a preoccupation throughout the artist’s career: ‘Chadwick has always been intrigued by movement, either actual or implied, in his sculpture. From his early mobiles to his dancing Teddy Boy and Girl series of the 1950s to his cloaked walking women with windswept hair of the 1980s, he has explored figures in motion. Sometimes their cloaks and draperies flow out in the wind from behind them, or are caught by a gust and wrap themselves around the figures. This essentially lateral progression gives place to a vertical rhythm in his groups of, usually two figures’ (D. Farr & E. Chadwick, Lynn Chadwick Sculptor with a complete illustrated catalogue 1947-2003, Farnham, 2014, p. 15).
One of the most striking elements of Chadwick’s sculpture is the way in which he pushes against a naturalistic representation of the figure, utilising a distinctly abstract idiom in his approach to the body to heighten its archetypal character, as seen in the present work. Chadwick wanted to express the essence of his figures, which could speak of universal symbols. In Jubilee IV his two forms generate a shared energy, as their bodies seem to respond and reflect one another, granting a sense of unity between the two, despite being separate entities.
Chadwick focused on the nuances of stance to imbue a human quality to his work. These carefully calculated angles and distances succeed in instilling his figures with a certain ‘attitude,’ an element of sculpture, which Chadwick saw as essential to the power and character of his figures. Through the angles of the figure, the subtle bending of their neck, the positioning of the head or the weight within the body, Chadwick believed he could make his sculptures speak, as it were. He explained, ‘If you can get their physical attitudes right,’ Chadwick explained, ‘you can spell out a message’ (L. Chadwick, quoted in M. Bird, Lynn Chadwick, Farnham, 2014, p. 147).
These subtle shifts in posture imbue the sculpture with a decidedly human presence, despite the fact that the two figures are constructed through a series of angular abstract forms. In this way, Chadwick moves beyond a focus on the formal qualities of the human body, beyond their distillation into abstract forms, to a more in-depth examination of the relationship that exists between his two figures, exploring how they relate to one another on an emotional level as well as in a formal, or physical sense. Although they do not touch one another, nor engage in eye contact, there is an intimacy to the relationship of the couple, a sense of connectedness achieved in the careful balancing of their forms. This internal tension is a clear development of Chadwick’s artistic vision, which builds on the formal and technical innovations of the artist’s youth and marries it with the careful observation and distillation of human nature that experience and age bring.
Lucie-Smith concludes, ‘… These are not simply geometrical constructs, fantasies based on the human figure. They are meant to give the sense that these are beings with an internal life – a quasi-human personality of their own. One of the problems faced by contemporary sculptures is that, if they choose (as Chadwick does here) to make monumental figures, these are detached from any firm social or religious context. They have to exist in their own right, or not at all. In a sense, this means that the sculptor, rather than illustrating a myth, has actually to invent the myth – to send the spectator’s imagination into new and speculative paths. Chadwick’s figures are alien, unsettling presences, intruders into the world of the ordinary’ (E. Lucie-Smith, Chadwick, Stroud, 1997, p. 98).