London’s Blain|Southern gallery have announced, Friday 10th May that they are to exclusively represent the estate of Lynn Chadwick. Who is considered to be one of the most important and underrated Post War, British sculptors.
“After nearly fifty years of working with my husband’s sculptures, I feel the time has come to hand over to Blain/Southern and Blain/Di Donna, international galleries, that will be better able to further his reputation in Europe and in the USA,” stated Sarah Chadwick, the artist’s widow. His daughter, will continue to assist Blain|Southern and Blain|Di Donna, while his other children Simon, Daniel, and Sophie Chadwick will also contribute to the family support.
Chadwick was born in Barnes, London, in 1914 and died at his home Lypiatt Park, Gloucestershire, in 2003 aged 88. He was one of the leading British sculptors of post-war Britain, known primarily for his metal works that were often inspired by the human form and the natural world, but which also at times veered close to abstraction. Producing sculptures that were defined through their exploration of form, stance, line, balance and attitude, Chadwick defined a new method of working that marked a departure from previously dominant sculptural traditions. Embracing iron structures, plaster filler and industrial compounds, he produced works that explored the dematerialism of mass and the vitality of line.
He did not begin his career as a sculptor until he was nearly 32. He did not attend art school, but instead began his career in an architect’s office as a draughtsman. Following war service as a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm (1941–44), he returned to his pre-1939 career with his old employer – the London architect, Rodney Thomas. Chadwick’s route to sculpture was through exhibition design – work which involved the practice of construction. With the encouragement of Thomas, Chadwick created objects in which linked, balanced forms floated freely in space and were suspended from the ceiling – his first mobiles. Very few of these early mobiles survive; they were made of wire, balsa wood and cut copper and brass shapes, often fish-like and sometimes coloured, and they were incorporated as decorative features in the exhibition stand. Later, he developed ground supports for the mobiles and termed them ‘stabiles’.
With his modest income from fabric and exhibition design, Chadwick was able to become self-employed, and he moved from London to Gloucestershire in 1946, aged 32. He was much more content in the country, and it was here that he met many people who influenced his future, such as the owners of the Gimpel Fils gallery in London – where his first mobile was shown in 1949. The following year, in 1950, he put on his first successful one-man show. Further commissions, including a work called Cypress, for the Festival of Britain in 1951, required him to work on a larger scale using metal. During this period, Chadwick was increasingly concerned with the ground supports of the ‘stabiles’ that were more sculptural, and these eventually became sculptures without any mobile elements. He had to learn to weld and master through trial and error, developing many new techniques in order to find an architectural or engineering solution to the construction of mobiles and sculptures.
Chadwick developed a technique of taking steel rods and welding them together in space to criss-cross, join and radiate out, which formed three-dimensional shapes in space (armatures) – akin to the architect’s space frame. He tended not to do a sketch beforehand – the sketches in his workbook came after the work was completed, as a record of what he had created. This armature, formed by the welded rods, was filled with an industrial compound called ‘stolit’ – a mixture of iron fillings and plaster that could be applied wet – and when dry, chased to achieve the surface Chadwick desired. This surface was sometimes textured, sometimes smooth — a skin, as it were — but with the original rods still visible. This external armature is a defining component of Chadwick’s imagery.
By 1955, although Chadwick continued to construct his sculptures by this method, he decided to cast them in the more durable medium of bronze, which also allowed him to expand his practice from unique sculptures into editions. The surface of the casts was then treated to achieve the subtlety of colour that Chadwick was searching for with each theme he was working on – sometimes golden, sometimes grey. Later, he also cast in silver and gold.
Of his work, Chadwick would say that he did not have a particular theme in mind, more a ‘problem to solve’, before he was able to move onto something else. Looking back at his whole body of his work, it is possible to see the artist’s work developing from the mobiles and ‘stabiles’ in the early 1950s through to the animal forms that in turn evolved into more obviously figurative sculpture.
In the 1960’s, Chadwick became interested in both abstract form and human form – and later, in the detailed observation of how a figure moves and the stances they might take. During the 1970’s and 1980’s he started to standardise these figures. He developed a personal visual ‘code’ – eventually most of the male figures had rectangular heads and the females had triangular heads (or flowing hair as in High Wind).
Chadwick left the interpretation of his works to others. He did not analyse his work. A very private man, he gave few interviews and would rather discuss the formal and practical nature of his sculpture over its meaning. He often spoke of a general feeling that he was merely the craftsman.
Eva Chadwick added, “We all feel confident that the estate of Lynn Chadwick will be managed and enhanced with the Blain/Southern and Blain/Di Donna partnership, and wish them all the best.”
Blain|Southern was founded in 2010 by Harry Blain and Graham Southern. Its London gallery is based in Hanover Square, and a further space is located in Berlin. It works with many leading contemporary artists, including Jonas Burgert, Francesco Clemente, Mat Collishaw, Jannis Kounellis, Tim Noble and Sue Webster, Bill Viola and Lawrence Weiner.
Blain|Di Donna has been operational since November 2010, and is based at 981 Madison Avenue on the second floor of the Carlyle Hotel. It has staged many successful shows, including major surveys of René Magritte, André Masson, Jean Arp and Paul Delvaux.
Harry Blain, director of Blain|Southern, said, “We are delighted to be representing the estate
of Lynn Chadwick, who is without doubt one of the foremost contemporary artists of the last six decades. Everyone at the gallery is looking forward to working closely with the Chadwick family on various projects which will bring his work to an even wider audience and greater recognition.”
Chadwick’s first mobile sculpture was shown in the window at Gimpel Fils gallery, London, in 1949, closely followed by his first solo exhibition, which was held at the same gallery a year later. His work was first presented to an international audience in 1952, when he exhibited at that year’s Venice Biennale alongside a new generation of British sculptors. It was four years later in the 1956 Venice Biennale that Chadwick won the coveted International Prize for Sculpture, prevailing over Alberto Giacometti, and making him the youngest post-war recipient of the prize. Chadwick went on to secure an international reputation with numerous solo exhibitions at venues including the Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura, Japan (1962); Knoedler Galleries, New York, US (1965); Wolpe Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa (1975); Yorkshire Sculpture Park, UK (1991); and Galerie Marbeau, Paris, France (1992). More recently a major retrospective of Chadwick’s work was exhibited at Tate Britain in 2003. Lynn Chadwick: Evolution in Sculpture is currently on show at the Abbott Hall Gallery, Cumbria, until 15 June 2013.
Lynn Chadwick’s sculptures are featured in many public collections including Centre Georges Pompidou, France; the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark; Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Italy; Moderna Museet, Sweden; National Galleries of Scotland; the British Council, UK; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Royal Academy of Arts as well as the Tate.