Reg Butler

Girl

1953–4

Artist
Reg Butler 1913–1981
Medium
Bronze
Dimensions
Object: 1778 x 406 x 241 mm, 120.6 kg (25.6kg figure / 95kg base)
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1954
Reference
N06223

Not on display

Display caption

In the mid 1950s Butler developed a figurative style that was often overtly erotic and sadistic. Girl is one of the first manifestations of this. The girl stands uncomfortably on two narrow bars. As she takes her clothes off, her genitalia are exposed and her face hidden. Thus she is turned into a sexual object.

By today’s standards such images may be considered misogynistic. In the context of 1950s Britain they reflected widely held male attitudes towards women that found expression in much art of the period.

Gallery label, April 2005

Catalogue entry

N06223 GIRL 1953–4
 
Not inscribed.
Bronze, 70×16×9 1/2 (178×40·5×24).
Purchased from the Hanover Gallery (Knapping Fund) 1954.
Exh: Hanover Gallery, April–June 1954 (38, repr.).
Lit: John Rothenstein, The Tate Gallery, 1958, pp.191–2, repr. pl.22.
Repr: Tate Gallery Report, 1954–55, 1955, facing p.19; Sir John Rothenstein, British Art since 1900, 1962, pl.130.

The artist has written (20 August 1955) that ‘“Girl” is the first full-size “volume” sculpture executed by me since 1948. She bears some relation to the “Girl with a Surfboard” (bronze) executed in 1947–48 - the last “volume” sculpture before the iron figures 1948–51. The grid on which she stands is presumably inherited from the “open” iron figures of preceding years [e.g. N05942].’

This is the fourth of an edition of seven casts. The first was exhibited in British Paintings and Sculpture, Whitechapel Art Gallery, September–October 1954 (63), and belongs to the British Council. Other casts are at Bristol, The Hague and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The work, opus 119 in the Hanover Gallery's numbering, is one of several different studies of a girl with a vest made between 1953 and 1957. The related ‘Study for Girl’, 1953 (opus 103; bronze, 34 in. high), was exhibited at the Hanover Gallery, April–June 1954 (36), and at the Curt Valentin Gallery, New York, January–February 1955 (36), where another cast of N06223 was entitled ‘Girl with a Vest’. Among later developments of the theme are ‘Study for Girl with Chemise’ (repr. exh. cat., Hanover Gallery, May–June 1957 (11)), ‘Study for Girl with Vest’, 1955 (repr. exh. cat., Hanover Gallery, May–June 1957 (16)) and ‘Girl’, 1956–7 (repr. exh. cat., Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, February 1959 (17)).

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I

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