William Turnbull first became interested in leaf forms when he travelled to Singapore in 1962 with his wife, the sculptor Kim Lim. Amanda Davidson notes that during this trip ‘he became fascinated with the luxuriant plant life of the region. He produced studies in sketchbooks of natural forms, plants and leaves in watercolour. Some of these images were explored further in a series of prints on the theme of leaves and in later sculptures such as Leaf Venus 2, 1986’.
This is one of a group of lithographs Turnbull made in 1967 – of which the Tate Gallery own a group of four. Turnbull’s use of clearly outlined, sensuous forms, reminiscent of Matisse’s cut outs, appears again in his illustrations for the book ‘The Garden of Caresses’, published a little later in 1970, in which he illustrates a 10th century Moorish poem. Turnbull is clearly drawing a parallel between the forms of his leaves and the curving limbs of the female nude. This is made more explicit in a group of twelve drypoint etchings, also in the collection of the Tate Gallery, in which human figure and dancing leaves are treated in a very similar style.