King and Queen


Strolling down Piccadilly towards the Royal Academy I passed Fortnum and Mason’s shop and stopped in my tracks when I spotted this Lynn Chadwick sculpture sitting above the entrance.

I only discovered after my visit that it was part of an exhibition of works owned by art collector Frank Cohen that are currently on display in the store. So I missed out on a free exhibition of Modern Art. Sad smile

Lynn Chadwick at Abbot Hall and Blackwell

Last Saturday we headed up the M6 to visit the exhibition of works by Lynn Chadwick – Lynn Chadwick – Evolution of Sculpture – showing at the Abbot Hall Gallery in Kendal with some additional larger works from later in his careers being displayed at Backwell, The Arts and Crafts House, a few miles away near Windermere. Despite setting out reasonably early, the Motorway was still quite busy being the Bank Holiday and slowed to a standstill a couple of times, but only for a minute or so and we arrived in Kendal mid morning.

We really enjoyed the exhibition. I’ve seen a few pieces by Lynn Chadwick in other galleries (including the Hepworth at Wakefield) but here we were able to see how his work developed via a large number of pieces covering most of his career.

There were some particularly appealing pieces. His work was on the margins of abstract and figurative, many of his sculptures being based on humans and animals. In the entrance hall there were three beautiful life size abstract figures – the three Electras – cast in bronze, most of the surface had a heavy patina except for a square on the front – the breasts and naval – which was highly polished. It was a part of the casting, not a separate piece welded on. It was just the finish that was different. They were a dramatic introduction to the exhibition.

© Lakeland Arts Trust

The Three Electras by Lynn Chadwick (Picture source Abbot Hall website)

The main part of the exhibition was on the first floor. There was a good selection of works with some very interesting pieces including a mobile (he started out making these) weird, fantastic beasts, abstract pieces, abstract humans (we particularly liked the Teddy Boy and Girl) and winged / cloaked figures. All very different from the more sinuous, sensuous, flowing sculptures produced by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth during the same period.

The art historian Herbert Read when discussing the strange beasts and other forms created by Chadwick Reg Butler and Kenneth Armitage, who exhibited together at the 1952 Venice Biennale described their style as as the ‘geometry of fear’ 

‘These new images belong to the iconography of despair, or of defiance….Here are the images of flight, or ragged claws "scuttling across the floors of silent seas", of excoriated flesh, frustrated sex, the geometry of fear…. These British sculptors have given sculpture what it never had before our time – a linear, cursive quality.’ (source here)

There was also a video showing about the artist and his working methods. I found that interesting as he worked in a much different way to say Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. He started by building a skeleton from metal rods (armature) welding them together then filling in the gaps with Stolit, a mixture of plaster and iron filings  so his technique was constructive, building up from scratch rather than cutting away material which is what sculptors working in stone and wood do. And he didn’t particularly plan the works. He had a rough idea which developed as his work on a sculpture progressed. One of the talking heads in the video compared his method to drawing in 3D with the armatures, inserting them, trying different arrangements, cutting away pieces, as he worked. There were some drawings but they seem to have been done after the work was completed rather than as preparatory sketches. I found his way of working quite interesting as it was different from other sculptors.

At Blackwell there were a number of larger works that were displayed outdoors in the grounds of the house. They were from later in his career and, overall, I thought they were less interesting, and less typical of his signature style, than those on display at Abbot Hall. But it did give an insight into how his work developed.

My favourite was this piece of two women walking up and down stairs that was displayed outside the entrance to the house‘



Women walking into the wind with their hair and clothing billowing behind them is a recurring theme in Chadwick’s work. This is a later example. The dress blowing behind makes the figure look like a strange cross between a human and a chicken.


This work of seated male and female figures  (Sitting Couple) reminded me of Henry Moore’s “King and Queen”


and they had a great view, especially on a nice sunny day


Small scale Post War British Sculptures at the Hepworth

post war

The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield seems to regularly refresh the works that it displays in Rooms 2 and 3. We’ve visited three times since it opened and there’s been a different exhibition showing on each occasion. They’ve all involved a mix of works from Wakefield Council’s own collection with loans from other galleries and collectors.

The current exhibition concentrates on British sculpture and painting in the decades after the Second World War. It was a period  of political, social and economic uncertainty and this was reflected in the works of young artists.

Room two is a relatively small and intimate space and the gallery tends to display smaller works here. And this is the case with the current exhibition.

Entering the gallery the eye is drawn to the brightly lit display of small sculptures and maquettes at the far end of the gallery which includes works by Henry Moore, Elisabeth Frink, Reg Butler, Bernard Meadows, Geoffery Clarke Lynn Chadwick and Austin Wright.  A number of these names were new to me. Unfortunately, photography isn’t allowed in this exhibition, so I’ve pinched the above picture from the Hepworth website.

There were other sculptures on display and some prints and pictures. In most cases the pictures were  linked with one of the sculptures. There was a monoprint by Geoffrey ClarkePreliminary Ideas for Unknown Political Prisoner, 1951,  and a maquette for the same work was displayed on the table – it’s 3rd from the left in the photograph. This work was produced as an entry in an international sculpture competition organised by the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London in 1952 for a memorial to commemorate ‘all those unknown men and women who in our time have been deprived of their lives or their liberty in the cause of human freedom’. There’s more about the competition and Clarke’s entry on the Tate website here. The competition was won by Reg Butler, one of whose works Young Woman Standing, 1951-2, which is owned by Wakefield Council, also features in the exhibition (3rd from the right in the photo).  It’s quite a delicate model made from wire, and I thought it was quite attractive. (Unfortunately I couldn’t turn up any pictures of it on the Internet).  Some contextual materials, letters, photographs and pamphlets, about this work and also his entry in the Political Prisoner monument competition are displayed in a cabinet at the other end of the room from the main display of sculptures.  The Tate website has a picture of the model of Butler’s entry together with some information about it on here.

There was a drawing by Austin Wright, Dispersal, 1955, which showed figures that were very similar to those modelled in his small lead sculpture The Argument, 1955 (it can be seen on the far right of the photograph).

There were a number of other sculptures and associated sketches and drawings on display that I liked, including Lynn Chadwick’s Conjunction, 1953 and Leslie Thornton’s Dying warrior, 1956.

Lynn Chadwick, ‘Conjunction’ 1953

Conjunction, 1953 Lynn Chadwick (picture source Tate website)

Although I enjoyed looking around the larger room too, I particularly liked these and the other small scale works which were displayed very effectively. And it’s always good to discover works that I like by artists who are new to me – in this case many of them northeners.  It was especially enjoyable seeing the preparatory studies and other contextual materials linked to the works and I thought that the curators had done a particularly good job with the exhibits in this room