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Naum Gabo produced five constructions on the theme of Stone with Collar. This small version, perhaps an early model, was conceived and probably executed in Paris in around 1933, along with another smaller study, Model for ‘Stone with Collar’ c.1933 (Tate T02172). Gabo seems not to have had enough money in Paris to produce more than small preliminary models, although these were crucial in the development of his new sculptural idea. Bringing this small sculpture with him from Paris, he continued working on the Stone with Collar series once he had settled in England in March 1936, further developing his carving techniques in the workshop of Mr Gumbrill, a London stonemason. His use of direct carving in the series initiated a lifelong interest in stone carving, undoubtedly heightened further in the 1930s by his friendship with Barbara Hepworth (1903–75) and Henry Moore (1898–1986).
The Stone with Collar works were the only significant sculptures produced by Gabo during a period of flux between 1932 and 1936, when he moved from Berlin to Paris and finally on to London. After he arrived in England Gabo completed a version for the artist Winifred Nicholson (1893–1981) in September 1936, probably the first fully realised piece, as well as the larger, more polished Construction: Stone with a Collar 1933, this version c.1936–7 (Tate T06975). The sculptures all incorporated a stone element but differed in their final form. The version for Winifred Nicholson, for example, included an additional strip going over the stone (reproduced in J.L. Martin, Ben Nicholson and Naum Gabo (eds.), Circle: International Survey of Constructive Art, London 1937, p.85). While the later versions typically included a ‘collar’ and a thin black strip which swept around the stone, there is no evidence to suggest that this early piece incorporated such elements.
Gabo’s use of natural materials was a significant departure from his earlier dedication to purely industrial materials, and reflected his desire to express what he saw as the hidden forces of nature. Authors of a recent monograph on Gabo, Martin Hammer and Christina Lodder have detected in the Stone with Collar works the influence of natural rock formations eroded by the wind or sea. Yet Gabo’s interest in technological and scientific innovation was still keen, and the dynamic curved forms in plastic and painted brass which appeared in later versions of the work may have been an allusion to recent discoveries in modern physics about spatial curvature. Gabo played with contrasts in other ways too, subtly understating the textural qualities of his materials by carving the stone and slate base into a fine finish and minimising the mass of the stone by refining it to a sharp edge.
Martin Hammer and Christina Lodder, Constructing Modernity: The Art and Career of Naum Gabo, New Haven and London 2000, pp.228–9, 235, 247–9, 383–4.
Martin Hammer and Christina Lodder, Gabo’s Stones, exhibition catalogue, The Centre for the Study of Sculpture, Leeds City Art Gallery 1995, reproduced p.2 (34.2)
Steven A. Nash and Jörn Merkert (eds.), Naum Gabo: Sixty Years of Constructivism, Munich 1985, p.218 note 34.2