Bernard Meadows
Black Crab 1951–2

Artwork details

Bernard Meadows 1915–2005
Black Crab
Date 1951–2
Medium Bronze
Dimensions Object: 425 x 340 x 242 mm
Acquisition Purchased 1982
Not on display


Meadows's crab sculptures were inspired by his war-time service with the Royal Air Force on the Cocos Islands in the South Indian Ocean, where he observed the shapes and behaviour of crabs. Unlike his 1952 Crab (Tate Gallery T03759), Black Crab is not modelled on any one species but represents, in Meadows's own phrase, 'the distillation or essence of crabness'. The crab suggests a hard, aggressive exterior shielding a soft internal form. W.J. Strachan (Connoisseur, April 1974) reproduces six related sketches, two of which are particularly close to the finished sculpture.

An unspecified cast of Black Crab was exhibited in the British Pavilion at the 1952 Venice Biennale, alongside sculptures by seven other young British artists. The art critic Herbert Read, in his catalogue introduction to these sculptures, characterised the bleak nature of post-war British sculpture with the phrase 'the geometry of fear'. His description of 'images of flight, of ragged claws "scuttling across the floors of silent seas" ' is particularly appropriate for this piece. Black Crab was widely exhibited in the British provinces during the 1950s, and was again shown at the Venice Biennale in 1964.

Black Crab was cast by the lost wax process at Fiorini's foundry in the King's Road, London. There are eight casts of this work, plus one artist's cast.

Further reading:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1988, p.529, reproduced
W.J. Strachan, 'The Sculptor and his Drawings 2. Bernard Meadows', Connoisseur, vol.185, no.76, April 1974, pp.288-93, reproduced pl.2 (Clare College, Cambridge cast)
Alan Bowness, Bernard Meadows: Sculpture and Drawings, Much Hadham and London 1995, p.136, reproduced pl.18

Terry Riggs
January 1998