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Lynn Chadwick, R.A. (1914-2003)
THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN
Lynn Chadwick, R.A. (1914-2003)

Untitled

Details
Lynn Chadwick, R.A. (1914-2003)
Untitled
welded iron, unique
13½ in. (34.3 cm.) high
Conceived in 1954.
Provenance
Purchased directly from the artist by Frank Avary Wilson, February 1995.
Anonymous sale, Bonhams, London, 16 November 2011, lot 5, where purchased by the present owner.
Literature
D. Farr and E. Chadwick, Lynn Chadwick: Sculptor, with a complete illustrated catalogue 1947-2003, Farnham, 2014, p. 113, no. 147, illustrated.

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Louise Simpson
Louise Simpson

Lot Essay

'It seems to me that art must be the manifestation of some vital force coming from the dark, caught by the imagination and translated by the artist's ability and skill into painting, poetry, sometimes music ... Whatever the final shape, the force behind is ... indivisible. When we philosophise upon this force, we lose sight of it. The intellect alone is still too clumsy to grasp it' (L. Chadwick, A Sculptor and his Public, 1954).

Untitled, 1954 is representative of a seminal moment in Chadwick’s career, conceived in the centre point of two pivotal Venice Biennales. The first, of 1952, at the invitation of the British Council to exhibit four sculptures in the British Pavilion, launched Chadwick’s work before an international audience. Subsequently, at the 1956 Biennale, Chadwick became the youngest post-war artist to win the prize for sculpture, with his nineteen sculptures and twenty drawings produced between 1951 and 1956, judged to be worthier of the prize than Giacometti, the favourite, who came second.

With its needle-sharp points and insect-like form, Untitled characterises in many ways the consciousness of the new generation of British sculpture in the early 1950s. At the 1952 Biennale, Chadwick was one of the eight younger artists who formed New Aspects of British Sculpture including: Kenneth Armitage, Reg Butler, Robert Adams, Geoffrey Clarke, Bernard Meadows, Eduardo Paolozzi and William Turnbull. In his introduction to the catalogue for the exhibition, Herbert Read wrote, ‘These new images belong to the iconography of despair or of defiance; and the more innocence of the artist, the more effectively he transmits the collective guilt. Here are images of flight, of ragged claws … of excoriated flesh, frustrated sex, the geometry of fear … They have seized Eliot's image of the Hollow Men, and given it an isomorphic materiality. They have peopled the Waste Land with their iron waifs' (H. Read, quoted in exhibition catalogue, New Aspects of British Sculpture, British Council, Venice Biennale XXVI, 1952). While Italian critic Gillo Dorfles singled out Chadwick's 'asymmetrical entities', which seemed to enact 'a precarious games of thrusts and counter-thrusts, of voids and fullnesses, of teeth which grip to comb and lacerated the hair of an etheric and invisible man' (Fiera Letteraria, 29 June 1952).

What emerged was a recognition of the emergence of a new aesthetic in British sculpture, with critics calling the British Pavilion ‘the most vital, the most brilliant, and the most promising in the whole Biennale' (R. Calvocoressi, exhibition catalogue, British Sculpture in the Twentieth Century, London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1981, p. 143). Read’s raw and violent description of these young sculptor’s work reflected the deeply troubling age in which they were working. Created in a world still recovering from the Second World War and a political climate seemingly teetering on the edge of nuclear war, Chadwick’s Untitled and its post-apocalyptic form conjures images both of the blackened devastation of an atomic bomb and the living creatures which one might imagine could mutate from such an event.

In spite of this, there is a delicate beauty to this unique sculpture’s asymmetric form. The four triangular forms elevated by the thin ‘torso’ which splits into three sharply pointed ‘legs’ were constructed from welded iron. The resulting dappled texture and negative space give the impression of an almost vibrating form. The energy of similar works of this period was observed by Alan Bowness: ‘Chadwick could now give the vitality that mobile sculpture by its very nature possessed to anything he made’ (A. Bowness, Lynn Chadwick, London, 1962, n.p.). This sense of vitality is an aspect of Chadwick’s work, which has been highly applauded and is notable in his mature works such as the High Wind series of the 1980s, but is exploited to most dramatic effect in his work of the 1950s, as epitomised in the present work.

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