John Duncan Fergusson found himself at the centre of an elite group of artists and writers in London during the First World War, including Wyndham Lewis, T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. His sculpture from the period was exhibited as part of a solo show at the Connell Gallery in March 1918, heightening his profile as a sculptor-painter. The show was favourably reviewed: Charles Marriot wrote ‘the most striking temperamental characteristic expressed in the work of Mr Fergusson is his craving for the third dimension. Obviously he is a man of robust imagination, ill content with a vision that evades the logic of sculpture. But being a true painter he will not sacrifice the tools and materials of his craft to realistic imitation in order to get an effect of solidity. By reducing everything to the same category, and dealing with it in the same terms, he is able to combine ideas of sculpture and emotional suggestions in a pictorial and decorative manner: to embody thoughts and feelings ‘in the round’. As might be expected of such a painter, he has more than an instinct for sculpture’ (C. Marriott, Building in Paint, Land and Water, 16 May 1918, p. 20.)
In Standing Nude Fergusson maintains his interest in female fertility and sexuality with the figure’s pointed breasts and exaggerated buttocks, but these elements of organicism are tightly controlled within a rigid overall schema of contours and planes. The work bears relation to pre-war Cubist sculpture such as Archipenko’s Women Combing Her Hair, 1915, and Gaudier-Brzeska’s Torpedo Fish and Brass Toy, both of 1914.