Frederick Edward McWilliam
Crankshaft Figure 1, 1962
Signed with initials and numbered 1/5
13 3/8 x 17 3/4 x 15 3/8 in, 34 x 45 x 39 cm
McWilliam studied painting and drawing at the Belfast College of Art in Northern Ireland (1928) before specialising in sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art in London (1928–31). McWilliam...
McWilliam studied painting and drawing at the Belfast College of Art in Northern Ireland (1928) before specialising in sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art in London (1928–31). McWilliam was one of a number of British sculptors, including Paolozzi and Armitage, who re-imagined the human form in a series of geometric shapes. 'Crankshaft Figure 1' is part of a series of bronze figures that he made in the early 1960s.
After graduating from the Slade, McWilliam was awarded a scholarship which enabled him to travel to Paris where he discovered the work of Brancusi, Giacometti and Arp. Their influence, together with that of his visit to the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London, led him to create his first biomorphic sculptures. By 1937 he was exhibiting with the British Surrealists, employing their rhetoric of illogical juxtapositions to deconstruct and abstract the human form.
The use of the reclining figure after the War marks the influence of Moore, with whom McWilliam had shared a studio. At first McWilliam emulated Moore’s interplay between solid volume and surrounding space. However, in his series of mechanomorphic bronze figures from the 1960s, of which 'Crankshaft Figure 1' is a part, he deliberately parodied the reclining figures of Moore. In ironic contrast to Moore's weighty, natural forms, he employed geometric shapes.
McWilliam was also influenced by his experience in the Royal Air Force during World War Two. Like Armitage, the imagery of machinery entered into works such as this through geometric blocks of bronze. However, unlike Armitage’s heavier, solid forms, the angular structures of 'Crankshaft Figure 1' recall the engines and turning shafts of aircraft, filling the sculpture with a dynamic, Futurist quality.
Private Collection, UK
London, Grosvenor Gallery, Sculpture of the 20th Century by British and European Artists, 21st – 31st Oct 2003, illustrated no. 5
F.E. McWilliam, Roland Penrose, Alec Tiranti, London, 1964 plates 116 and 117