Sir Anthony Caro

The Window


Sir Anthony Caro 1924–2013
Painted steel
Object: 2170 × 3740 × 3480 mm
Accepted by HM Government in Lieu of Inheritance Tax from the collection of the late Sir Anthony Caro, offered from the estate of Lady Caro (Sheila Girling) and allocated to Tate 2017


The Window 1966–7 is a multi-part steel sculpture painted predominantly in a dark green, with three elements painted a lighter olive green. The dominant feature of this sculpture is provided by the contrast of two rectangular sheets of steel; one, solid and dark green, faces a larger, olive green, sheet of steel mesh. These are held upright (but in landscape format) by a set of vertical, horizontal and bent or inclined beams (T-beams, I-beams and cylindrical beams), as well as one right-angled triangular sheet that supports one outer edge of the steel mesh sheet. This triangular element has a notch taken out of its top corner to support a horizontal beam that runs horizontally across the face of the mesh sheet to an otherwise freestanding vertical I-beam. The horizontal beam is also painted olive green as is a bent upright along one edge of the solid steel sheet – all the other elements of the sculpture are painted the same dark green. The arrangement of these elements describes an enclosure with an opening at one corner.

In 1964, the British art historian and critic Herbert Read’s Concise History of Modern Sculpture was first published and, although he was not mentioned within the text, Anthony Caro was included in the book by the illustration of Lock 1960 (Tate X67581). Just over a decade earlier, Read had championed a sculpture of ‘despair, or of defiance’ (Herbert Read, ‘New Aspects of British Sculpture’, The British Pavilion, exhibition catalogue, The XXVI Biennale, Venice [organised by the British Council] 1952, unpaginated) as reflecting a ‘Geometry of Fear’, and in his 1964 book he criticised the abandonment of carving and modelling in favour of what he termed a ‘New Iron Age’ of assemblage and ‘linear sculpture’. For Read, Caro’s Lock, alongside work by American sculptor David Smith (1906–1965), epitomised the ‘ugliness’ that he discerned in such an approach of assembling – by welding and bolting – scrap metal into abstract compositions that appeared to deny expressions of emotion or experience. Caro had been seeking a new kind of sculptural language than that promoted by Read since the late 1950s. As a part-time tutor at St Martin’s School of Art, London since 1953, Caro had made clear to his students the course he was on, telling them ‘that we were all engaged on an adventure, to push sculpture where it never has been. We are explorers, equals.’ (Quoted in Andrew Dempsey [ed.], Sculptors Talking: Anthony Caro, Eduardo Chillida, 2000, p.46.) Caro’s aim was to develop a sculptural language whose material and expressive power could be communicated immediately as a tangible physical presence in the space occupied by the viewer. In 1960, following a visit to America the previous year and responding to both the abstract painting and sculpture he had experienced there – by Kenneth Noland (1924–2010) and David Smith respectively – he began to create work that was frontal, planar, non-connotational in its use of structural steel girders employed by the building trade and anonymous scrap metal, and that sat directly on the same ground as the viewer. Such work is exemplified by Twenty Four Hours 1960, also in Tate’s collection (Tate T01987).

The Window was begun in 1966 and finished in 1967. It addressed the linearity that Caro had isolated in a group of sculptures the previous year, such as Strip or Smoulder (both 1965, private collections), works that were defined by their horizontal contact with the ground and their vertical extension from it. The Window, however, brought this linear drawing together with three planes; the triangular plane is supportive and structural, the two rectangular planes initiate ways of looking that are primarily visual, despite occupying the same space as the beholder – one plane covers over while the other reveals. Structurally the work invites the viewer to step into the space the sculpture delineates, yet such a move is unlikely, despite the opening at one corner. Caro even went so far as to assert that The Window and related sculptures presented themselves for exploration ‘by the eyes only’ (lecture by Anthony Caro, ‘Through the Window’, Tate Gallery, London, March 1990, reprinted in Dieter Blume, Anthony Caro Catalogue Raisonné, vol.IX, Cologne 1981, p.23). The critic and art historian Norbert Lynton suggested, in this regard, that, ‘It is our imaginations that are invited in, not our feet … Solid and transparent planes address each other across space. There is a clear sense of elements erected to hold space and an equally clear sense of openness.’ (Norbert Lynton, ‘Anthony Caro’, Five Sculptures by Anthony Caro, exhibition catalogue, Arts Council of Great Britain 1982, p.17.)

Further reading
William Rubin, Anthony Caro, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Modern Art, New York 1975.
Ian Barker, Anthony Caro, Quest for the New Sculpture, Aldershot 2004.
Paul Moorhouse, Anthony Caro, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2005.

Andrew Wilson
January 2017

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Display caption

As a part-time tutor at St Martin’s School of Art, London between 1953 and 1979, Anthony Caro had made clear ‘that we were all engaged on an adventure, to push sculpture where it never has been. We are explorers.’ His aim was to develop a sculptural language whose expressive power could be communicated through sharing the physical space occupied by the viewer. From 1960 he began to create abstract sculpture that sits directly on the same ground as the viewer, removing the need from plinths, and made from construction materials such as steel girders and scrap metal.

Gallery label, October 2019

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