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Horse 1

Horse 1
signed with monogram, numbered and dated 3⁄6 /87'
bronze with a brown patina, on a black marble base
29 1⁄2 in. (74.9 cm.) long
Conceived in 1987.
Private collection, France.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2012.
Exhibition catalogue, William Turnbull: Sculptures 1946-62, 1985-87, London, Waddington Galleries, 1987, p. 73, no. 30, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, William Turnbull, Caracas, Galería Freites, 1992, p.16, another cast illustrated.
A.A. Davidson, The Sculpture of William Turnbull, Much Hadham, 2005, p. 172, no. 251, another cast illustrated.
London, Waddington Galleries, William Turnbull: Sculptures 1946-62, 1985-87, October - November 1987, no. 30, another cast exhibited.
New York, Terry Dintenfass Inc., William Turnbull: Sculptures 1946-62, 1985-87, March - April 1988, another cast exhibited, catalogue not traced.
London, Waddington Galleries, Sculpture, October - November 1988, ex. cat., another cast exhibited.
Caracas, Galería Freites, William Turnbull, October - November 1992, another cast exhibited, catalogue not traced.
New York, Barbara Mathes Gallery, William Turnbull: Sculpture, April - June 2002, another cast exhibited, catalogue not traced.
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.
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Lot Essay

William Turnbull explored the subject of the horse extensively throughout the 1940s and 1950s, with his first known horse sculpture dating from 1946, and executed while still a student at the Slade School of Art. In the 1980s, after a brief hiatus in his sculptural output, Turnbull returned to the subject of the horse, conceiving a series of four in bronze (Horse 1 (the present work), 2, 3 and 5). These equine sculptures are amongst the most celebrated and striking works from Turnbull’s later years, which saw a reprise of themes he had experimented with in the 1950s, thirty years before. The revival of his sculptural oeuvre was prompted by the major retrospective exhibition of his work that was held at the Tate Gallery, London in 1973. It proved a pivotal moment for his artistic thought. Confronted with such as large selection of his work gave Turnbull an opportunity to identify the themes and ideas he had consistently worked towards but had not always been consciously aware of.

In the Horses of the 1980s, Turnbull dispels any introduction of colour, instead turning his attention to form, space and the textures and tones of his bronze material. In Horse 1, 1987, he reduces the form of the horse to three interlocking shapes; the head a flat mask-like palette, which is interposed with two central apertures evocative of eyes, which connects to an arch of bronze. Simplified to the bare means, Turnbull succeeds in conjuring the essence of the horse. Turnbull explains his working method:

‘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).

His Horses can be seen, in part, to be inspired by the Classical Greek sculptures he studied while at the Slade, such as the fragmented Horse of Selene, circa 438-432 B.C., from the Parthenon and the Quadriga of the Mausoleum at Halikarnassos, 350 B.C. Turnbull was fascinated by the ancient, historical and mystical and often frequented the British Museum, captivated by the carvings from Egypt, the Cyclades and Archaic Greek sculptures. This interest in the art of other civilisations, both ancient and contemporary, was supported by the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), which he joined after his return from Paris in 1950. It was intensified by his marriage to Singaporean sculptor Kim Lim in 1960 and their subsequent travel together to Japan, Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore in 1962.

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.

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