As with so much of Turnbull’s work, Lotus Totem, exists in a realm beyond time, combining both the ancient and modern, and the abstract and figurative. In this work we can see the mainstream 20th Century Modernist theme of 'Primitivism' but similtaneously it seems to transend time, resonating the anicent. Turnbull was interested in prehistoric art, seeking inspiration in ethnographic collections, including at the British Museum. He believed that something 3,000 years old can look more modern than something made yesterday. He also had a great respect of the Modern masters. While in Paris in the late 1940s, Turnbull introduced himself to the notoriously reclusive Constantin Brancusi, discovering the older man's address and turning up on his doorstep unannounced. After a dangerous pause, a stony-faced Brancusi had led the young Scot to his studio and left him there. Half an hour later his host came back, opened the door and asked him to leave. For all its brevity, the meeting was critical for Turnbull. If his sculpture of the early 1950s showed an exposure to Giacometti and Jean Dubuffet's art brut, the stacked works such as Lotus Totem which he made throughout the 1960s are strongly Brancusian.
Turnbull had established a reputation in America as early as 1955, when he was introduced to the collector Donald Blinken – later chairman of the Rothko Foundation – who immediately became both a patron and advocate of Turnbull’s work. When Turnbull travelled to New York in 1957, Blinken introduced him to a number of the leading American artists including Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Barnett Newman with whom he established a close relationship. Blinken famously states that Turnbull’s sculptures were the only objects that could hold their own when placed alongside his paintings by Rothko, their simplicity and timeless, heratic beauty reflecting Rothkos own understated power. Turnbull had his first solo show in New York at Marlborough-Gerson Gallery in 1963. The great success his works achieved is illustrated nicely in a remarkable series of paintings by David Hockney, executed in Los Angeles in the late 1960s. In the famous portrait of Betty Freeman entitled Beverley Hills Housewife and American Collectors (Fred & Marcia Weisman) (fig.1, Art Institute Chicago, 1968) we see the new American art collecting elite portrayed by Hockney in their sleek Richard-Neutra-inspired homes under the glittering Californian sun. What is perhaps most striking about these wonderful bright, limpid paintings is the art works that their subjects pose alongside: the minimal, totemic sculptures of Turnbull and the Henry Moore seated figure. Clearly, if you wanted to be cool and cutting-edge in 1960s L.A. you needed contemporary British Art.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale