Girl with a surfboard, 1948
12 3/4 x 3 1/2 x 2 3/8 in, 32.5 x 9 x 6 cm
'Girl with a surfboard' is an early and unusual example of Reg Butler’s preoccupation with the female figure which he imagined in delicately welded figures during the 1940s and 50s....
'Girl with a surfboard' is an early and unusual example of Reg Butler’s preoccupation with the female figure which he imagined in delicately welded figures during the 1940s and 50s. This beautiful sculpture foreshadows his significant works 'Girl' (1953-4) and 'Woman' (1949) which are held at the Tate Collection in London. It was the last bronze sculpture he created before beginning his series of iron figures from 1948–51.
Although Reg Butler was trained as an architect, he began making sculptures in 1944, while working as a blacksmith during the Second World War. This sculpture is representative of the early iron women which he forged and melded on the anvil. 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’, creating sensuous and tender images of the female body. Butler remarked on the “bareness” of such works, in which he simplified the female form to its most basic shapes. Elongated figures such as this also recall Giacometti’s spidery figures from the late 1940s and directly contrast with Moore's solid reclining figures, popular at the time.
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. In the insect-like, geometric shapes, he has given recognisable human characteristics to forms usually associated with non-human creatures and machines, deliberately intertwining girl and surfboard. Moreover, Butler remarked on his attempts to portray motion and raise such figures “up in the air like an explosion, supported as efficiently as I can on thin material” deliberately dissociating the figure in space from the ground below.