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McWilliam entered the Slade School of Art in 1928 where he met Henry Moore, who became a life-long friend. In the mid-1930s McWilliam lived and worked in Hampstead and was part of the avant-garde group of London artists. He was deeply impressed by the International Surrealist Exhibition of 1936. Although the subjects of McWilliam's sculptures were mostly drawn from his imagination, he periodically accepted commissions for traditional portrait sculpture. This 'Portrait Bust of Isaac Wolfson' is of particular relevance to the Tate Gallery. Wolfson (1897-1991) set up a Foundation to advance health, education and youth activities and was a major donor to the Tate Gallery, Liverpool.

August 2004