Illustrated companion

Anthony Caro's sculpture in the 1950s is exemplified by his sprawling lumpy bronze 'Woman Waking up' of 1955, in the Tate Gallery collection [T00264], whose style is recognisably in tune with the predominant expressionist figuration of the period. In 1959 Caro visited America where he met Kenneth Noland and Morris Louis and the sculptor David Smith, although he saw only one or two works by him at that time. Those contacts acted, Caro said later, as 'the catalyst' in a decisive and enormously influential change in his work: 'I realised that I had nothing to lose by throwing out History ... America made me see that there are no barriers and no regulations ... There is a tremendous freedom in knowing that your only limitations in sculpture or painting are whether it carries its intention or not, not whether it is "Art".' He also said that the change in his work in 1960 was prompted by his desire 'to get away from all the old sort of work associated with plaster and clay ...' He began to fabricate his sculpture from steel sheet and girders which he then painted. He painted it, he said, to make it 'look straightforward: no art props, no nostalgia, no feelings of the preciousness associated with something because it's old bronze or it's rusty, encrusted or patinated.' However, Caro's use of colour, as in 'Early One Morning' became an important element in the radically new feeling that his work expressed: colourful, light, open, spacious, confident, optimistic, life-enhancing. Caro's sculpture also rests directly on the floor, relating to the spectator, therefore, in a much more direct way than traditional sculpture isolated on a pedestal. The scale and openness of a work such as 'Early One Morning' further draw the spectator into the world of colour and space of the work. A notable feature of this sculpture is the gently curved upward soaring elements contrasting strongly with the dominant angularity and horizontality of the work. In this 'Early One Morning' marks an important development away from Caro's previous more earthbound constructions of massive girders, towards effects of lightness and airiness. Caro's titles are in no way descriptive but they can evoke associations which seem appropriate to the spirit of the piece.

Published in:
Simon Wilson, Tate Gallery: An Illustrated Companion, Tate Gallery, London, revised edition 1991, p.234