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… (read more)