Reg Butler (1913-1981)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF DAVID AND LAURA FINN
Reg Butler (1913-1981)

Girl Looking Down

Reg Butler (1913-1981)
Girl Looking Down
stamped with monogram and numbered '7/8' and stamped with foundry mark 'Susse Fondeur Paris' (on the top of the base)
bronze with a dark brown patina
58¼ in. (148 cm.) high, including base
Conceived in 1956-57.
This work is recorded by the artist as RB156.
with Hanover Gallery, London, where purchased by the present owners in September 1960.
Exhibition catalogue, Reg Butler, London, Hanover Gallery, 1957, n.p., no. 36, illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Reg Butler: Sculpture and Drawings, 1954 to 1958, New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, 1959, n.p., no. 16, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Reg Butler: Sculpture, London, Hanover Gallery, 1960, n.p., no. 25, illustrated.
R. Melville, 'In connection with the sculpture of Reg Butler', Motif, No. 6, 1961, pp. 27-39, another cast.
M. Garlake, The Sculpture of Reg Butler, Much Hadham, 2006, pp. 65, 150, no. 179, fig. 57, another cast illustrated.
London, Hanover Gallery, Reg Butler, May - June 1957, no. 36.
New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, Reg Butler: Sculpture and Drawings, 1954 to 1958, February 1959, no. 16, another cast exhibited.
London, Hanover Gallery, Reg Butler: Sculpture, June - July 1960, no. 25.
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Pippa Jacomb
Pippa Jacomb

Lot Essay

‘Exaggerated hips and breasts, protruding buttocks and stomach, and non-existent arms and legs provided Butler with exactly the kind of mysterious, affective female image he was seeking' (see R. Calvocoressi, ‘Reg Butler: The Man and the Work’, exhibition catalogue, Reg Butler, Tate Gallery, London, 1983, p. 29).

The 1950s were an incredibly successful period of Butler’s artistic career. Recognised for iron creations and representation of the figure in bronze, the sculptor abandoned his architectural trade for metalwork, becoming the first recipient of the Gregory Fellowship at Leeds University. While working in Leeds, Butler exhibited at the eponymous 'Geometry of Fear' 1952 Venice Biennale alongside fellow young British sculptors including Lynn Chadwick and Kenneth Armitage, who used sculpture to reflect on a post-war angst. The following year, Butler won the international competition to design a monument for the Unknown Political Prisoner with a large linear iron and stone design. Butler’s sculptures in the mid-fifties however, display a more affectionate exploration of human nature. Two additional bronzes by Butler entitled Girl (Striding Girl) (lot 131) and Torso Summer (lot 130), complement Girl Looking Down in this Modern British Art sale, all of which were executed in the artist’s most prolific years.

Girl Looking Down stands at almost 5 feet tall, and captures both Butler’s modern approach to bronze casting, as well as his admiration of women as a sculptural form. Stretching upwards, the standing girl raises both arms to wrap behind her head and neck. She quietly exposes and elongates the entirety of her rounded body, echoing elements of Moore’s shapely reclining and seated figures, while pushing her face downwards away from the viewers’ gaze. The figure’s stomach bulges and her legs taper, transitioning into thin supporting metal bars. With this, the implied weight of the body defies gravity, beautifully suspending the top-heavy figure away from the ground. Here, Butler embraces a modern era of sculpture, unconventionally removing the feet (which he claimed to be a distraction), while dappled imperfections across the body, similar to Butler’s The Bride, 1954-56, further estrange the artist from the form and surface used in classical sculpture. Richard Calvocoressi explores the artist’s technique: ‘Butler’s nudes are neither emblematic nor with ideals of beauty or formal perfection. Awkward but alive, they belong firmly to the northern realist tradition – Clark’s Alternative Convention, the anti-classical Gothic nude, Cranach as opposed to Michelangelo’ (R. Calvocoressi, ibid., p. 28).

Referred to as ‘fat and fleshy’ by the artist in John Read’s BBC documentary, British Art and Artists: Reg Butler (in which both Girl Looking Down and Torso Summer appear displayed in his garden), curvaceous bronzes are created with sincere excitement and passion, having been worked physically from the plaster material, but also in having created the female form with an unrestrained artistic expression. Butler’s interest in this and a near-Surrealist interpretation of a truncated female form can be recognised in all three sculptures, removing parts and twisting the body into contorted positions.


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