William Tucker
Pomona 1999

Artwork details

William Tucker born 1935
Date 1999
Medium Bronze
Dimensions Object: 2460 x 2100 x 2150 mm
Acquisition Purchased with assistance from the American Fund for the Tate Gallery, the Estate of Tom Bendhem and the Royal Academy of Art Sculpture Fund 2002
Not on display


Tucker was born in Cairo of English parents and educated in England. He read history at Oxford (1955-8), where he attended life drawing classes at the Ruskin School of Art, before studying fine art at Central and St Martin’s School of Art, London (1959-61). During this period he was attracted to the physical immediacy and radical abstraction of the American Abstract Expressionist painters. At the same time he was influenced by what he perceived as the ‘cool and rational approach’ of Constantin Brancusi (1876-1956), Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) and David Smith (1906-65). His early work, made during the 1960s and 70s, was constructed from industrial materials and characterised by its emphasis on linear and geometric abstraction. Like many of his contemporaries, Tucker rejected the traditions of narrative and figurative sculpture, preferring instead an art that was ‘pure, logical and distanced’ (quoted in William Tucker: Recent Sculptures and Monotypes, [p.2]). In the early 1980s, in a dramatic shift in materials and technique, he began building organic contours onto geometric armatures using plaster and scrim (see Guardian IV 1983, Tate T07982). From this time his sculptures, representing human and (occasionally) animal forms, have been modelled by hand in clay and plaster before being cast in another material. Tucker has commented:

To project an inner sense of the wholeness of the body has been the task of sculpture from the makers of Avebury and the Willendorf Venus to Degas and Rodin, and it still can be, in our time. Once I grasped this possibility some time ago I have been discarding, year by year, fragments of the visual and conceptual framework on which I once felt my sculpture depended – its frontality and geometric clarity, its linear and planar structure, every element of drawing, and distancing – until all that is left is the massive core.

(Quoted in William Tucker: Recent Sculptures and Monotypes, [p.3].)

At first sight Pomona is an ambiguous looming mass, resembling a huge, upright rock formation. A closer inspection seems to resolve the formlessness into the suggestion of a female torso. The possibility of an ambiguous image, as well as the risk of none at all, is for Tucker a consequence of the art of modelling in clay or slow-setting plaster, with shape and surface generated by the contact of the hand with the soft materials. Over the past fifteen years the process of modelling has become as much the subject of Tucker’s sculpture as it is the means. Many of the massive, chthonic forms created in this way are titled with the names of ancient and classical gods and goddesses, emphasising their essentialist nature. A series made in 1987 was simply titled Gods. An early precedent for Pomona is a craggy female torso entitled Demeter, 1991 (David McKee Gallery, New York). Another similar figure is titled Eve, 1998 (private collection). Pomona was the Roman goddess of fruits (especially apples), who was worshipped at a sacred place named Pomonal on the outskirts of Rome. Tucker’s powerful rock-like figure is an appropriate representation of the earth’s inner potential for fecundity.

The original plaster sculpture was cast in bronze. Tate’s is the first in an edition of two.

Further reading:

Dore Ashton, Dahlia Morgan, William Tucker, exhibition catalogue, Art Museum, Florida International University, Miami 1988
William Tucker, exhibition catalogue, Bothy Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield 2001
William Tucker: Recent Sculptures and Monotypes, exhibition catalogue, Annely Juda Fine Art, London 1987

Elizabeth Manchester
June 2004

About this artwork