William Turnbull 1922 - 2012

Provenance

The Artist

Exhibitions

London, Waddington Galleries, William Turnbull: Sculptures 1946–62, 1985–87, 28 October – 21 November 1987, cat no.1,
illus colour p13, artist’s cast
Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Scottish Art Since 1900, 17 June – 24 September 1989, touring to:
London, Barbican Art Gallery, 8 February – 16 April 1990, cat no.332, artist’s cast
London, Waddington Galleries, William Turnbull: Horses – Development of a Theme, Other Sculptures and Paintings, 22 June
– 20 July 2001, cat no.1, illus colour p5, another cast
Wakefield, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, William Turnbull: Retrospective 1946–2003, 14 May – 9 October 2005, p5
exhibition guide, artist’s cast

Literature

Richard Morphet, William Turnbull: Sculpture and Painting, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London, 1973, p22, illus b/w fig.1
Bernard Cohen, ‘William Turnbull: Painter and Sculptor’, Modern Painters, Winter, 1995, pp30–35, illus colour p30; text originally published in Studio International, Vol.186, July – August 1973, pp9–16
David Sylvester (intro) and Patrick Elliott, William Turnbull: Sculpture and Paintings, Merrell Holberton, London, 1995; published to accompany the exhibition Bronze Idols and Untitled Paintings, Serpentine Gallery, London, 1995–6, p11, illus colour pl.1
Amanda A. Davidson, The Sculpture of William Turnbull, The Henry Moore Foundation in association with Lund Humphries, London,
2005, p78, cat no.2, illus b/w p12 fig.1

Description

This is one of Turnbull's very earliest sculptures, conceived in 1946, whilst he was a first year a student at the Slade School of Art. It was in the sculpture department of the Slade that Turnbull met Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005) and Nigel Henderson (1917-85), who shared his interest in Continental modernist art. Turnbull became a close friend of Paolozzi who was in his final year. Paolozzi came from Edinburgh and was interested in a wide range of art including commercial art. They both developed radically direct methods of production that they used as well as the traditional clay modelling promoted by the Slade, depending on what surface they wanted. Turnbull often used plaster and the different properties of this material meant that it had to be used in different ways to clay. Clay is a plastic material, which remains pliable throughout the time it is being modelled. Plaster is a powder that is mixed with liquid; it changes its charactet at different stages of the work. Artists have to apply and manipulate the semi-liquid material in layers, but they can later work on the hardened piece, carving and shaving the form…

…Turnbull built plaster on top of a metal armature to make Horse, 1946. This piece forms a horse's head from a series of interlocking planes, both three-dimensional, flattened and frontal, exploring Cubist ideas of simplifying subjects to elemental shapes in a sculptural form. It was originally marked with fine lines and painted yellow; later it was cast in bronze. Mask, 1946, was cement, with its surface covered with designs in string. It also appears to represent a horse's head, but again is flat and frontal, using the conventions of masks to present a three-dimensional impression in a two-dimensional manner in sculpture.

Amanda A. Davidson, The Sculpture of William Turnbull, The Henry Moore Foundation in association with Lund Humphries, 2005, p12

Turnbull made many further works with this title, in 1950, 1954, and in addition there is Pegasus, 1954, an abstracted image of the winged horse from Greek mythology. The subject returns in much later bronzes in 1987, 1988, 1999 and 2000, where Turnbull's focus is on the hollow eyes and solid arching neck, first seen in Horse, 1946. Turnbull was a regular visitor to the British Museum while a student at the Slade. The horse's strong, arched neck is typical of classical Greek sculptures in the collection, such as Fragments of Colossal Horses from the Quadriga of the Mausoleum at Halikarnassos, 350 BC.