The family of the British sculptor Sir Anthony Caro has confirmed the death of the artist following a sudden heart attack on Wednesday 23 October 2013. Regarded as the ‘Grand old man of British sculpture’, in the 1950s he had learnt from his mentor Henry Moore that artistic rules were there to be broken. So he yanked sculpture off its pedestal and set it on the floor and he rejected the traditional materials of bronze, marble and wood for girders, nuts and bolts. In fact as he confessed, nothing was safe from his magpie eye: parts of ships, cars, even kitchen equipment have all been incorporated into his work.
Sir Anthony Caro OM, CBE (89) was widely regarded as the greatest British sculptor of his generation who played a pivotal role in the development of twentieth century sculpture. He was born in Surrey in 1924 and educated at Charterhouse School and Christ’s College Cambridge where he graduated with a degree in engineering. After studying sculpture at the Royal Academy Schools in London from 1947-1952, he worked as an assistant to Henry Moore in the 1950s.
He came to public attention with a show at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1963, where he exhibited large abstract sculptures brightly painted and standing directly on the ground so that they engage the spectator on a one-to-one basis. This was a radical departure from the way sculpture had hitherto been seen and paved the way for future developments in three-dimensional art.
His teaching at St Martin’s School of Art in London from 1953 to 1981 was very influential. He questioned assumptions about form, material and subject matter in sculpture, and his work inspired a whole younger generation of British sculptors including Phillip King, Tony Cragg, Barry Flanagan, Richard Long and Gilbert & George. His teaching led to a flowering and a new confidence in sculpture worldwide.
He often worked in steel, but also in a diverse range of other materials, including bronze, silver, lead,stoneware,wood and paper. Major exhibitions included retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1975), the Trajan Markets, Rome (1992), the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (1995), Tate Britain, London (2005), and three museums in Pas-de-Calais, France (2008), to accompany the opening of his Chapel of Light at Bourbourg. His work has been collected by museums throughout the world.
He was awarded many prizes, including the Praemium Imperiale for Sculpture in Tokyo in 1992 and the Lifetime Achievement Award for Sculpture in 1997. He was knighted in 1987 and received the Order of Merit in May 2000.
A major exhibition of his work is is currently on show at The Museo Correr in Venice until 27 October 2013.
In 1949, he married the painter Sheila Girling and they had two sons, Tim and Paul and three grandchildren Barnabas, Benjamin and Emma.
“Anthony Caro was one of the outstanding sculptors of the past fifty years alongside David Smith, Eduardo Chillida, Donald Judd and Richard Serra. In the sixties he established a new language for sculpture in a series of elegant, arresting, abstract steel sculptures placed directly on the ground. His development of this vocabulary, building on the legacy of Picasso, but introducing brilliant colour and a refined use of shape and line, was enormously influential in Europe and America. Caro admired the sculpture of ancient cultures and Greece and from the eighties onwards produced a series of large scale abstract works that reflected a continuing interest in the human body, but also a growing fascination with architecture. Caro was a man of great humility and humanity whose abundant creativity, even as he approached the age of ninety, was still evident in the most recent work shown in exhibitions in Venice and London earlier this year.” – Nicholas Serota, Director, Tate
Top Image: Anthony Caro Painting by Hugh Mendes