John Skeaping


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Not on display
John Skeaping 1901–1980
Object: 195 x 331 x 127 mm, 8.6 kg
Lent by Mrs S Barclay 2001
On long term loan

Display caption

John Skeaping and Alan Durst shared the enthusiasm for direct carving shown by Jacob Epstein’s Doves displayed on the plinth opposite. The carving of animals was particularly popular during this period because it was felt that they could be more easily abstracted than the human form. As shown by Skeaping’s Fish, carved from a large ironstone pebble, such works combine fine carving with sensitive handling of the material.

Gallery label, August 2004

Technique and condition

The sculpture is a small one part pink alabaster carving weighing 8.6kg. The shiny smooth stone has obvious hand tooling marks in the deep carved details, particularly around the head and ears of the gazelle and the tree behind. Fine sandpaper scratches made by the artist are now more noticeable because of ingrained surface dirt. The soft alabaster has two or more veins of Jurassic variation in the stone with uneven, denser white bands of colour through the body of the animal. A natural fissure in the stone extends from between the front leg, across the neck and diminishes over the front shoulder. The natural faults in the stone are ingrained with dirt where the surface is pitted. The surface is glossy and appears to be waxed. The carving has a green baize profile glued to the underside and this is partially detached and folded back on one corner.

There is no artist’s inscription but three paper labels are adhered to the baize. One label is inscribed Desmond Oakes collection “DEER by SKEAPING”, one is a Minories Gallery ID label dated (19)75 and one is a small square label with indistinct writing.

When first loaned to Tate in 2002, the sculpture had many small chips and bruise marks in the stone predominantly on both sides of the neck, in the tree leaves and on the flank of the animal. Small bruises are evident on the ear, eye and rear eye lid of the gazelle. There is also a long tapering scratch in the rear side if the neck. Numerous pin prick scratches are present horizontally and vertically, just above the base. With the owner’s permission, the sculpture might be cleaned in the future. The work should be displayed under cover on a plinth.

Sandra Deighton
July 2005


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