Head, c. 1951
Iron and stone
10 1/2 x 9 7/8 x 6 7/8 in, 26.7 x 25 x 17.5 cm
Geoffrey Clarke was one of a group of artists who exhibited at the significant 1952 Venice Biennale show ‘New Aspects of British Sculpture’ in the British Pavilion. In the early...
Geoffrey Clarke was one of a group of artists who exhibited at the significant 1952 Venice Biennale show ‘New Aspects of British Sculpture’ in the British Pavilion. In the early 1950s Clarke made a large series of works based on the human head, including 'Head' (1952) which is in the Tate Gallery. The image of a disjointed and abstracted head appeared in the work of several British artists during this period, including Reg Butler, Eduardo Paolozzi and Nigel Henderson.
Clarke had studied Stained Glass Design at the Royal College of Art from 1948-1951. He was successful and well respected receiving numerous commissions for public and private spaces. At the same time he was creating sculptures, working with glass and iron. However, following his inclusion in the 1952 Biennale, he exhibited his sculpture far less frequently, becoming more involved in the production of monumental architectural installations. It is only now the importance of his early sculptures, such as 'Head' (1951), is being re-evaluated.
Following his graduation from the RCA, Clarke acquired a studio with a forge in South Kensington where between 1951 and 1955 he used iron, almost exclusively, to create a large number of small sculptures. Like the other young British sculptors Paolozzi, Armitage and Turnbull, Clarke was attracted to ‘primitive’ art forms, and in particular the early work of Picasso and African tribal masks. 'Head', with its sharp features, suggests the simplification of African carving as well as tribal weaponry. Iron also referenced the modern age of industrial production; Clarke has created a powerful primitive image for the post war era.