Reg Butler



In Tate Britain

Reg Butler 1913–1981
Forged steel
Object: 2210 × 770 × 750 mm
Purchased 1950

Display caption

'Woman', with its insect-like abdomen and its spiky, rather threatening presence, is typical of Butler's work in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In 1958 Butler wrote that his earliest linear open-work iron sculptures, such as this figure, were made in response to the 'enigmatical man-made objects' which sprang up around the coast of Britain during World War II. These included the radio and towers of Bawdsley in Suffolk, which the artist referred to as the 'Bawdsley personages ... with little that was benign in their personalities, remote inscrutible custodians of a landscape hostile to man'. The Tate also has a smaller study for this sculpture.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

N05942 WOMAN 1949
Not inscribed.
Forged iron, 87×28×19 (221×71×48).
Purchased from the Hanover Gallery (Knapping Fund) 1950.
Exh: Hanover Gallery, July–August 1949 (1); Venice Biennale, 1952 (British Pavilion, 110).
Lit: Philip Hendy, ‘New Sculpture and Painting’ in Britain To-day, September 1949, p.33; Robert Melville, ‘Personages in Iron’ in Architectural Review, CVIII, 1950, p.148, repr. p.149.

This was the first important figure made by Reg Butler on a large scale and is numbered opus 21 by the Hanover Gallery. A maquette, 12 in. high (opus 20), was included in the same exhibition (2) and was acquired by Marcus Whiffin, U.S.A.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I

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