Lynn Chadwick, R.A. - New Now London Tuesday, July 13, 2021 | Phillips

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  • 'I think that the idea in my mind was to go from the structure, the pure bones of things, to get into something with a skin, and become a solid thing […] volume, not just a skeleton, not transparent that you could see through.'
    —Lynn Chadwick

    Lynn Chadwick at work in his studio in the late 1940s welding for his sculpture, The Inner Eye.

    One of the most innovative and internationally revered sculptors of his generation, Lynn Chadwick’s enigmatic armoured figures remain amongst the most enduring images of post-war British art. Utterly modern and yet infused with a sense of mythic timelessness, their therianthropic combinations of human and non-human elements are immediately recognisable and can be found in major collections across the world including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Tate Galleries, and the Hakone Open-Air Museum in Japan.


    Spanning over two decades of the sculptor’s late-blooming career, the present collection offers a fascinating insight into Chadwick’s changing approach to form and the body, drawing together the iconic, angular geometry of his 1950’s Teddy Boys and Girls, his winged creatures, and the softer, billowing undulations of his later walking cloaked figures. As well as capturing the tension between abstract and figurative forces most immediately associated with Chadwick’s practice, the three works presented for sale here also highlight the sculptor’s dichotomous blend of movement and stasis, and his enduring fascination with the sculptural possibilities that such a problem presented.


    Ragged Claws and Teddy Boys'I should have been a pair of ragged claws
    Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.'
    —T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

    Lot 33, Lynn Chadwick, Conjunction IV, 1958

    Heavy and voluminous, yet impeccably poised on spindle-thin legs, the geometric angularity of Conjunction IV is wonderfully emphasised by the playful interaction of its two counterbalanced figures. Infused with a sense of kinetic energy, the two upright beetle-like forms appear to dance coyly around one another, tentatively feeling their way into the space around them in a way that recalls Picasso’s experimental costume designs for the Ballets Russes half a century before. However, while the brightly painted cardboard assemblages engage with the somewhat frivolous ephemerality that conditioned their creation, Chadwick’s post-war figures convey quite a different sense of their material and emotional weight.


    Set and costume design by Pablo Picasso for Parade, 1917

    As Alan Bowness has commented, Chadwick ‘has a sculptor’s remarkable power to make images that have symbolic values, images that we know mean something to us without understanding why’.i Certainly to some, in the aftermath of the Second World War and with the catastrophic threat of Nuclear conflict growing ever deeper, Chadwick’s hardened carapaces and angular hybrids appeared to be responding to deep-seated anxieties surrounding the fleshy softness of the human body and its fragility. For critic Herbert Read, Chadwick’s inclusion in the 1952 Venice Biennale alongside the likes of Kenneth Armitage and Bernard Meadows confirmed the emergence of a new ‘iconography of despair, or of defiance, ‘Here are images of flight, of ragged claws, ‘scuttling across the floors of silent seas,’ of excoriated flesh, frustrated sex, the geometry of fear.’ii


    While something of this metaphysical heft is certainly communicated in the solid weight of welded bronze and the physically demanding nature of the processes involved in its production, Conjunction IV presents an effective riposte to Read’s infamous ‘geometry of fear’, the intimate playfulness and awkward pirouettes of its not-quite-human forms directly relating it more closely to one of Chadwick’s most iconic motifs, that of the Teddy Boy and Girl.


    Fashion-conscious and rooted in a rejection of war time austerity and exuberant celebration of rock-and-roll music, the working-class Teddy Boy subculture of the 1950s represented the first real moment of teenage rebellion in the United Kingdom. Perceived as disrespectful and possessing a reputation for violence, the defiant attitudes and physical presence of the Teddy Boys and Girls certainly appealed to Chadwick, and he channelled something of the uneasy tension of their interactions into Conjunction IV. Giving form to this balance of the modern with the malevolent, in this series of works Chadwick created ‘toys, armed however, with vicious teeth and claws.’iii


    Short compilation of archival footage related to Teddy Boy culture


    Drawing in Space

    'All right, you had to fly an aeroplane, so, all right, you can dice around in the sky and do wonderful things there, but the, my thing was, I've got to survive, I've got to make this thing fly and then make it come down again, you see, in one piece. So, you see, I managed that.'
    —Lynn Chadwick

    Lot 34, Lynn Chadwick, Maquette II for R34 Memorial, 1958

    While the counterbalanced figures of Conjunction IV evoke elements of dance to explore form, geometric volume and movement, Maquette II for R34 Memorial takes quite a different approach. Appearing to fuse two figures together in a flat, fossilised compression of animal, human and aeronautic elements, Chadwick condenses all of the muscular energy of flight into this taut and immobile piece.

    'I think that the static thing is, perhaps, more important, because you can give movement in a static thing, and that’s more, more important to me.'
    —Lynn Chadwick

    Chadwick arrived at sculpture late. Having initially trained as an architectural draughtsman, he volunteered to join the Fleet Arm during the Second World War, qualifying as a pilot in 1941 before his success with a series of mobiles for trade fairs in the late 1940s convinced him to commit himself to developing his own highly distinctive and self-taught practice. After receiving international recognition with his first Biennale appearance, in 1957 Chadwick was awarded a commission by the Air League of the British Empire to produce a memorial in commemoration of the first successful return trans-Atlantic crossing of the R34 airship in July 1919. Although the final sculpture intended for the Long Haul Terminal at Heathrow was sadly never realised, Maquette II for R34 Memorial is one of an edition of nine bronzes cast in 1958 which deftly blends the artist’s own first-hand experience of flying with his acute engineering sensibilities as a means of exploring sculptural problems of movement and stasis.


    Lynn Chadwick, circa 1950 at work in his studio with maquette for sculpture. ©Photography by David Farrell

    Rather than sketching out his designs beforehand, Chadwick took an experimental approach to both materials and method, improvising with elaborate web-like structures of iron rods which he welded together in a kind of ‘three-dimensional drawing.’ Having constructed this skeletal framework, Chadwick then applied a skin of materials which he built up and scraped back before taking bronze casts. The distinctive taut surface of the widely spread wings here radically illustrates this process, the imprint from the rods striating the leathery surface like veins in a bat’s wing.


    This disarming blend of the animal and aeronautic is typical of Chadwick’s work from this period, while the compression of two figures into a single Janus-faced entity allowed Chadwick to represent the full range of the airship’s outward and inbound movement with balance, economy and precision.


    Figures in Motion

    'I think that the static thing is, perhaps, more important, because you can give movement in a static thing, and that’s more, more important to me.'
    —Lynn Chadwick

    Lot 35, Lynn Chadwick, Walking Cloaked Figure I, 1978

    By the mid-1970s Chadwick’s ongoing fascination with human movement had led him towards increasingly upright and elongated figures which would culminate in his lyrical and most naturalistic High Wind series, where a walking woman’s hair is blown wildly across her face and head. Presenting an exceptional synthesis of two key motifs from Chadwick’s mature work, Walking Cloaked Figure I anticipates these later works in the voluminous cloak’s billowing form and sense of forward propulsion, while still featuring the solid geometry and anonymous cubed head of Chadwick’s most iconic works. Central to Chadwick’s artistic vocabulary the square or rectangle had been employed by the artist irrespective of gender until the 1970s, when he began to consciously differentiate between male and female forms. As Chadwick explained in relation to his couples, ‘I made the female head a pyramid so that the tip of the pyramid was just slightly higher than the male one, but the mass of the female one was slightly lower than the head of the male, so as to balance it not only from the point of view of gender, but from the point of view of masses.’iv


    This sense of balance and volume is wonderfully captured in Walking Cloaked Figure I, the small rectangular head perfectly offsetting the strong intersecting diagonals around which the vertical figure is organised. Bursting with vitality and drama, the whole work is animated with a striking dynamism, the force of the striding figure colliding with the headwind recalling the early twentieth-century Futurist master Umberto Boccioni’s epoch-defining examination of movement through space.


    Umberto Boccioni, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (Forme Uniche della continuita), 1913, Museo del Novecento, Milan, Italy

    Unlike Alberto Giacometti, who was passed over for the 1956 Grand Prix in favour of the younger British sculptor, Chadwick increasingly experimented with the sculptural possibilities of sumptuous garments and drapery for evoking space, volume, and movement. In its angular undulations the present work seems to defy the limitations of its materials, lifting effortlessly behind the striding figure in a wonderful illustration of Chadwick’s reconfiguration of ‘the outline of a cloak into a curved or multi-carved surface, or line, rather, joined […] so that I got interior volumes, sort of hollows which had a shaped outline.’v


    Innovative, dynamic, and still remarkably contemporary, one of the most enduring features of Chadwick’s figures resides in their universality and ability to communicate intimacy and alienation, the majesty of existence and its futility. A fantastic demonstration of the sculptor’s consistent engagement with the question of movement and form throughout his career, the strong thematic and technical connections across this exceptional group speak to Chadwick’s continued relevance today.


    i Alan Bowness quoted in Lynn Chadwick: Sculpture 1951 – 1991, exh. cat, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, 1991, p. 3

    ii Herbert Read, ‘New Aspects of British Sculpture’, The XXVI Biennale, Venice, The British Pavilion, 1952

    iii Ibid.

    iv Lynn Chadwick, quoted in Edward Lucie-Smith, Chadwick, Stroud, 1997, p. 98

    v Lynn Chadwick, quoted in M. Bird, Lynn Chadwick, Farnham, 2014, p. 150

    • Provenance

      The Estate of Lynn Chadwick
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Copenhagen, Court Gallery, Lynn Chadwick, June 1978 (another example exhibited)

    • Literature

      Denis Farr and Eva Chadwick, eds., Lynn Chadwick Sculptor, Surrey and Burlington, 2014, no. 774, p.336 (another example illustrated)


Walking Cloaked Figure I

stamped with the artist's monogram and numbered 'C 774 EA1 PE' on the underside
27.9 x 20.3 x 20.5 cm (10 7/8 x 7 7/8 x 8 1/8 in.)
Executed in 1978, this work is the artist's proof from an edition of 8 plus 2 artist's proofs.

We are grateful to Dr Sarah Chadwick for her assistance with the cataloguing of this work.

Full Cataloguing

£30,000 - 40,000 ‡♠

Sold for £35,280

Contact Specialist

Simon Tovey
Head of New Now Sale
+44 20 7318 4084

New Now

London Auction 13 July 2021