Study for Girl with a Vest, 1959
Inscribed, numbered and stamped with foundry mark on base 'RB 4/8 Susse Fond Paris'
Bronze. Cast at Founder Susse Frères, Paris in an edition of 8.
22 x 5 3/8 x 4 3/4 in, 55.8 x 13.8 x 12.1 cm
After the Second World War, Butler was also among a number of British sculptors, including Paolozzi and Armitage, who in the post-war era responded to the nuclear age, exploring the...
After the Second World War, Butler was also among a number of British sculptors, including Paolozzi and Armitage, who in the post-war era responded to the nuclear age, exploring the relationship between humanity and machine. Along with Freudian theory, Surrealism, and Butler’s enthusiasm for primitive art, these themes provided a powerful basis for the artist’s concerns of the body under various kinds of stress that would become an important part of his oeuvre from the 1950s. Critics identify his works from this period as some of the most powerful expressions of post-war anxieties.
During this period Butler announced his central, most compulsive subject, the sensual female body. Encouraged by his reading of Freud, he gradually narrowed his focus as he worked intensively on what he referred to in the notebooks as ‘the Girl idea’. The present work is in parts tender and sensuous, while in others it has been left coarse and unfinished—a lump of raw material. Indeed Butler remarked that “I often try to get the mass in my figures up in the air like an explosion, supported as efficiently as I can on thin material…the whole feeling of this lump of flesh in space dissociated from the ground”. The architectural stand featured in this sculpture derives from Butler's earlier forged metal pieces. The elongated forms also recall Giacometti and Bacon’s solitary figures from the late 1940s and directly contrast with the organic forms of Moore's solid reclining figures, which were ubiquitous at the time.
Butler's international reputation was established in 1953, when his design for a 'Monument to the Unknown Political Prisoner' won ICA’s Kassel Documenta, against entries from Alexander Calder, Naum Gabo and Barbara Hepworth among others. The present work dates from the same period as this important moment in Butler’s career. His works can be found in public collections worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Tate Gallery, London.
Private Collection, UK
London, Hanover Gallery, Reg Butler: Sculpture, 9 June - 8 July 1960, cat. no.28
New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, Reg Butler: Recent Sculpture 1959-1962, 30 October - 17 November 1962, cat. no.12
Arts Council Gallery, The Gregory Fellows, 8 - 29 February 1964, cat. no.4
Robert Melville, Motif, no. 6 (spring 1961)
Margaret Garlake, The Sculpture of Reg Butler, 2006, Lund Humphries, cat. no.196, p.155 (illus.)