Bronze man, c. 1950
Bronze, stone base
16 x 5 1/8 x 3 3/8 in, 40.5 x 13 x 8.5 cm
'Bronze Man' is representative of Paolozzi’s figurative sculpture from the 1950s in which, like Kenneth Armitage, he had started to develop a dialogue between primitivistic and mechanical imagery. He had...
'Bronze Man' is representative of Paolozzi’s figurative sculpture from the 1950s in which, like Kenneth Armitage, he had started to develop a dialogue between primitivistic and mechanical imagery. He had also begun to appropriate the forms of Surrealism and Art Brut which he had been introduced to whilst living in Paris.
Having previously studied art at the Edinburgh College of Art and St Martin’s School of Art, it was between 1945 and 1947 that Paolozzi focused on sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art, where he met William Turnbull and Lucian Freud. The Slade had been evacuated from London to Oxford during World War Two and whilst a student there Paolozzi made regular visits to the Ashmolean Museum’s collection of antiquities and to the Pitt Rivers Museum, where he became fascinated by ethnographic sculpture. Responding to these forms, as well as Picasso’s enthusiasm for ‘primitive’ art, sculptures such as 'Bronze man' have a naïve quality in which Paolozzi seems to mock traditional art school’s focus on copying classical statues.
After studying at the Slade, Paolozzi lived in Paris from 1947 – 1949, where he was introduced to the aesthetics of Surrealism. He was attracted to the juxtaposition of found objects in work by artists including Jean Arp, Marcel Duchamp and in particular Alberto Giacometti, whose early Surrealist objects, in which he contrasted organic and mechanical objects, had a lasting influence on him. Whilst in Paris Paolozzi also met Dubuffet, under whose influence he began “trying to make a kind of anti-art object” and "something which looked horrible", echoing the raw forms of Art Brut. The multi-textured surface of this bronze figure reveals Paolozzi’s technique, which he developed during the 1950s, of pressing mechanical, found objects into wax or clay maquettes before casting them in bronze. The robotic torso of 'Bronze Man' hails the dawning of a new technological age in an ironic image of man and machine combined.
During the 1950s Paolozzi was a significant figure in the Independent Group. Alongside other members of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, including Turnbull and Richard Hamilton, Paolozzi led discussions about science, technology, and popular culture. In his juxtaposition of the artistic and technological in figures such as 'Bronze Man', Paolozzi created a dramatically new aesthetic that formed the foundation of Pop Art in the UK.