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)

Queen 2

Details
William Turnbull (1922-2011)
Queen 2
signed with monogram and dated ‘88’ (on the base)
bronze with a light green and brown patina
84½ in (217 cm.)
This work is number one from an edition of four.
Provenance
with John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, where purchased by the present owner in 1987.
Literature
Exhibition catalogue, William Turnbull: Recent Sculpture, London, Waddington Galleries, 1991, pp. 13, 51, no. 4, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, William Turnbull: New Sculpture, Berlin, Galerie Michael Haas, 1992, n.p., no. 9, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, The Art of the Garden, Edinburgh, The Scottish Gallery, 1994, p. 38. another cast illustrated, catalogue not traced.
Exhibition catalogue, London, Serpentine Gallery, William Turnbull: Bronze Idols and Untitled Paintings, 1995, p. 76, exhibition not numbered, pl. 55 and illustrated on the front cover, another cast illustrated.
S. Bonn, L'Art en Angleterre 1945-1995, Paris, 1996, p. 102, another cast illustrated.
S. Lawson, The 20th Century Art Book, Oxford, 1996, p. 466, another cast illustrated.
A. Patrizio, Contemporary Sculpture in Scotland, Sydney, 1999, pp. 130-131, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, William Turnbull: Retrospective 1946-2003, Wakefield, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2005, pp. 14, 18, 22, no. 41, fig. 42, another cast illustrated.
A.A Davidson, The Sculpture of William Turnbull, Much Hadham, 2005, pp. 62-65, 68, no. 257, fig. 31, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, William Turnbull at Chatsworth, Derbyshire, Chatsworth House, 2013, pp. 41, 83, no. 42, another cast illustrated.
Exhibited
San Francisco, John Berggruen Gallery, William Turnbull - Recent Sculptures, 1989, another cast exhibited, catalogue not traced.
New York, Arnold Herstand & Co, William Turnbull, 1989, another cast exhibited, catalogue not traced.
London, Waddington Galleries, William Turnbull: Recent Sculpture, September - October 1991, no. 4, another cast exhibited.
Berlin, Galerie Michael Haas, William Turnbull: New Sculpture, October - November 1992, no. 9, another cast exhibited.
Edinburgh, The Scottish Gallery, The Art of the Garden, 1994, another cast exhibited, catalogue not traced.
London, Serpentine Gallery, William Turnbull: Bronze Idols and Untitled Paintings, November 1995 - January 1996, exhibition not numbered, another cast exhibited.
Wakefield, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, William Turnbull: Retrospective 1946-2003, May - October 2005 and open air until Spring 2006, no. 41, another cast exhibited.
Derbyshire, Chatsworth House, William Turnbull at Chatsworth, March - June 2013, no. 42, another cast exhibited.
Wakefield, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Open Air, another cast in the permanent collection.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
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William Porter
William Porter

Lot Essay

‘His earlier idols echoed ancient figures that had become dislocated from any specific religious context: they provoked a sense of lost divinity and of the spiritual nature of art. The new idols not only reflect the spiritual nature of art in a secular society but also go on to ask questions about the value and use of various subjects and of artworks themselves’ (A.A. Davidson, The Sculpture of William Turnbull, Much Hadham, 2005, p. 62).

Created in 1988, Queen 2 is a key work from Turnbull’s later years which saw a reprise of the mysterious totemic bronze works the artist had first experimented with thirty years before. Elegant in its height, shape and delicate slenderness, Queen 2 takes its form from a variety of inspirations. Commentators have pointed to the natural forms similarly explored in Leaf Venus, but also to sacred ritualised objects found in distant cultures. Most notably, art historian Roger Bevan has likened the pointed teardrop shape to a ‘churinga’: a totem used by Aboriginal tribes in Australia. Marked with complex codes and symbols, these sacred objects are used within celebrations to communicate and present the history of their community, as well as passing on mystical knowledge.

Symbols similarly adorn Queen 2: the elongated bronze spear-head shape has intricate and abstract marks carved into the front, as though relics from an ancient and lost language, with no key to decode them. Amongst these markings, three triangular shapes stand out, forming what could be read as a representation of the female body, or even a facial structure. The anthropomorphic title Queen 2 also alludes to the strongly minimalist reduction of the human form, in this case a towering and elegant queen figure. This simplification of form, and subtle hints at features, such as the suggestion of a nose, or subtle pinning in of a waist, is typical of his sculptural work, and encourages the viewer to draw closer in order to complete their interpretation.

The linear connecting triangles on the surface of Queen 2 have become a motif much repeated in his iterations of the feminine form. They appear also in Large Spade Venus, 1986; Queen 1, 1987; Large Paddle Venus, 1988; Idol, 1988 and Female Figure, 1989 (sold in these Rooms, 26 June 2017, lot 41, for £497,000). The more complex, almost hectic interrelated lines also carved into Queen 2 are reminiscent of earlier works such as Screwhead, 1957, which has similarly rough lines etched into the surface, bringing together triangles, grids and panels of blank space. Amanda A. Davidson wrote of this mark-making ‘the sculptures invite the viewer to read them while refusing to supply the code to the signs, thus the works open themselves up to multiple and uncircumscribed narratives’ (A. Davidson, The Sculpture of William Turnbull, Much Hadham, 2005, p. 65). Turnbull himself described these geometric markings, which are often mysteriously referential to other markings in his past work, as ‘a symbolic way of taking your eyes around the sculpture’ and has drawn a comparison between the markings and tattoos, commenting, ‘from the very beginning of time, people have decorated their bodies. They tattoo themselves, they paint their eyes and lips’ (W. Turnbull, quoted in ibid., p. 68).

Turnbull’s two sons were expert skateboarders and surfers. Inspired by the simple streamlined shape of the long boards Turnbull must regularly have seen coming through his house, it is easy to recognise the surfboard shape he cited as an inspiration in Queen 2, as well as the skateboard shapes in Ancestral Figure, 1988, amongst others. Turnbull took the simple forms of everyday objects, such as tools, leaves or even surfboards, and transformed them into objects of spiritual contemplation or ‘idols’ as they became known.
Turnbull’s sculptural practice breathed new life after a major retrospective at the Tate Gallery in London in 1973, which proved to be a pivotal moment for his artistic thought. Confronted with such as large selection of his oeuvre gave Turnbull an opportunity to identify the themes and ideas he had consistently worked towards but had not always been consciously aware of. Reflecting in such a way enabled Turnbull to revisit to his original ideas and refine them. He made a glorious return to sculpture after a brief hiatus in the early 1970s, when he believed his ideas had already been taken as far as they could go. Working once more in his early organic materials, rather than the steel and fiberglass of his later years, Turnbull’s experiments from 1974 onwards started small and expanded into a new series of idols. Where his earlier work was characterised by a rough and textured surface, the forms he created in the 1970-80s were predominantly smoother and more meditative.

Turnbull’s pathway was far from typical for an artist. Son of a shipyard engineer, born in 1920s Dundee, he took on many labouring jobs whilst growing up, but also began to paint commercial posters as a side job, which gave him a taste for art and aesthetic. At night, he took art classes and soon became an illustrator at DC Thomson, the publisher of The Dandy and The Beano. After the war, Turnbull was finally able to join the Slade School of Fine Art in London, gravitating toward the sculpture department where he soon befriended fellow Scot Eduardo Paolozzi.

As part of the radical Independent Group at the ICA in London, he was driven not by their interest in the development of Pop Art, but rather by their attention to the history and philosophy of art. Turnbull’s work reached an international audience in 1952 when he was part of the seminal display at the Venice Biennale, New Aspects of British Sculpture, selected by ICA President Herbert Read. During the 1960s and 1970s Turnbull was highly celebrated by an American audience; he was represented by the Marlborough Gallery in New York alongside Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko and his works were bought by prominent US collectors. Both his sculptures and paintings have been widely described as timeless by art critics, collectors and fellow artists.

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