Bernard Meadows
Large Flat Bird 1957

Artwork details

Bernard Meadows 1915–2005
Large Flat Bird
Date 1957
Medium Bronze
Dimensions Object: 1110 x 695 x 360 mm
Acquisition Purchased with assistance from the Knapping Fund 1997
Not on display


This is the largest of all the 'bird' sculptures made by Meadows between 1950 and 1959, and the one he considered his best. Inspired by the sculptures of Picasso and particularly Picasso's 1932 bronze Cock (a 1952 cast of which is in the Tate Gallery, N06023), Meadows was preoccupied with the cockerel theme during the 1950s. He produced his first cockerel in 1954, when he was commissioned by the Hertfordshire Director of Education to make a sculpture for a new school to be built in London Colney. The result was an over-life-size cock in a naturalistic style, which the artist felt would be enjoyed by children. Two further bronze casts were made for sale.

Meadows said that 'birds can express a whole range of tragic emotion, they have a vulnerability which made it easy to use them as vehicles for people' (Bowness, p.14). At first glance, Large Flat Bird looks to be powerful and quite stable, but further examination reveals that its neck is taut and strained and its beak open. Its wings are spread and ruffled both for protection and to make itself larger to the invisible predator. Like Elizabeth Frink, Lynn Chadwick and others of his generation, Meadows chose to model in plaster rather than clay, which gave his work a hard quality. Although he sometimes used a gold patina, for Large Flat Bird he chose a very dark patina, which accentuates the sombre mood of the piece.

Other pieces by the artist in the Tate's collection include four small cockerel reliefs of 1958 (Tate Gallery T00329) and two crab sculptures of the 1950s (Tate Gallery T03409 and T03759).

Further reading:
W.J. Strachan, 'The Sculptor and his Drawings 2. Bernard Meadows', Connoisseur, vol.185, no.746, April 1974, pp.288-93
Alan Bowness, Bernard Meadows: Sculpture and Drawings, Much Hadham and London 1995, reproduced p.47, pl.26

Terry Riggs
November 1997