William Turnbull (1922-2011)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED LOS ANGELES COLLECTION
William Turnbull (1922-2011)

Horse 2

William Turnbull (1922-2011)
Horse 2
signed with monogram, numbered and dated '4/6 87' (on the base of the mane)
bronze with a green patina
30½ in. (77.5 cm) long

with John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, where purchased by the present owner in 1987.

Exhibition catalogue, William Turnbull: Sculptures 1946-62, London, Waddington Galleries, 1987, pp. 74-75, 87, no. 31, another cast illustrated.
Arts Review, London, 6 November 1987, pp. 766, 769, another cast illustrated.
A.A Davidson, The Sculpture of William Turnbull, Much Hadham, 2005, p. 172, no. 252, another cast illustrated.
London, Waddington Galleries, William Turnbull: Sculptures 1946-62, October - November 1987, no. 31, another cast exhibited.
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William Porter
William Porter

Lot Essay

‘When I make horse’s heads – I have done them pretty well ever since the beginning – it’s always been with this idea of having a metaphoric quality. But also with only part of the horse represented, you didn’t feel the rest of the horse is missing. That has always fascinated me in sculpture where the part can become the whole’ (W. Turnbull in conversation with C. Renfrew, quoted in exhibition catalogue, William Turnbull Sculpture and Paintings, London, Waddington Galleries, 1998, p. 8).

William Turnbull explored the theme of the horse extensively throughout the 1940s and 1950s, returning to it during the 1980s when Horse 2 was conceived in 1987. As Turnbull was recreating this subject, he referred to his memory of the Horse of Selene, located on the east pediment of the Parthenon, which he had studied while at the Slade. Turnbull has explained his reasons for reworking this subject: 'It is very interesting to see the possibility of enormous variation. It is not necessary to take a new theme, but to transpose something' (W. Turnbull, quoted in A.A. Davidson, The Sculpture of William Turnbull, Much Hadham, 2005, p. 71).

However, in contrast to his works created in previous years, in the 1980s the subject of the horse became more directly related to the adze, an ancient tool similar to an axe. The use of a horse as a tool, for example, as transport or a military weapon is emphasised. This results in a connection to our historical practical reliance on this animal and highlights its importance throughout humanity.

The horse is depicted with an arched neck, which relates it to the early Greek horse sculptures, as well as to the ancient tools used by earlier civilisations. The horse's similarity to the tool refers to Turnbull’s practice of transforming a practical object, such as an ancient axe, into an artwork. The sculpture represents a highly-simplified form of a horse. The face of the horse resembles a shield, which again alludes to the use of a horse as a military weapon. In addition, it has a very smooth texture, stripped of any detail, which emphasises the highly-abstracted shape and movement away from naturalism. The form is reduced to the core of the subject, but despite the abstract representation, it is still suggestive of the animal's features.

In contrast to his earlier Horse, created in the 1950s, which is a highly linear, thin sculpture with rough texture, the form of Horse 2 is solid and strong. In Horse 2, the closed arch emphasises the stillness of the sculpture and does not suggest any movement. Even though the whole body of the horse is not represented, the sculpture is very balanced, and self-contained. Turnbull depicts the horse's eyes as two symmetrical piercings, allowing the viewer to look through and become involved with the sculpture. For Turnbull, the viewer’s involvement in the work was highly important. He was concerned with the positioning of the sculpture in relation to the viewer and believed that the spectator’s viewing of the sculpture would render it complete.

Turnbull was exploring an idea of metamorphosis, recreating his earlier themes in new ways, giving them distinctive appearances. Through the recreation of the same subject and reference to the primitive tools used in earlier civilisations, Turnbull examined an idea of time and the relationship between the past, the present and the future. His art explores connections to the past, while aspiring to a relevance in the modern world with the aim of creating a dialogue with the viewer. Despite a strong connection with the ancient world, his works exhibited a contemporary challenge to the sculptural tradition and the hierarchy of art.

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