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Modern & Post-War British Art

Lightness & Weight: Anthony Caro’s Painted Sculpture of the 1960s & ‘70s

In anticipation of the sale of Anthony Caro’s magnificent Gray Apron in our 12th June sale of Modern & Post-War British Art sale, Senior Specialist Simon Hucker takes a look at this particular moment in the great artist’s career through photographs from Caro’s personal archive.

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ANTHONY CARO, GRAY APRON, 1972

The inspiration for this photo essay came from this unpublished photo that the Caro studio sent me whilst researching Gray Apron, showing the work in the courtyard of the Georgiana Street  studio. What struck me was how fresh it looked: not compared to the car behind, but also to contemporary eyes. And how much Caro fulfilled his ambition (and that of many artists of the ‘60s and ‘70s) to create a 'new sculpture' that spoke of and to the modern world.

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CARO WORKING IN HIS STUDIO

This image of Caro in the studio spray painting a work speaks of the importance of colour in his sculpture, which was always applied with a painter's sense of how colour interacts with form to create mood. The spray technique, though, also obliterates the artist's 'hand', that idea of being able to see the artist’s personality in the surface of an object. As such, this most aesthetic of decisions, about the colour of the work, deliberately feels in part industrial, almost 'found'.

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ANTHONY CARO WITH JULES OLITSKI AND KENNETH NOLAND

Thinking of the importance of colour in Caro's work of the ‘60s and ‘70s, in this photo we see him with the American abstract painters Jules Olitski and Kenneth Noland, both of whom became very close friends and colleagues of Caro during their time together at Bennington College in Vermont. This was a period of intense enquiry for Caro, when his work also acquired a lightness of touch that belied the weight of his material - a lightness very much in evidence in Gray Apron.

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ANTHONY CARO, SHAFTSBURY

I chose this image of a mid-60s work, Shaftsbury, photographed at Bennington College, partly because it is an incredibly beautiful photograph in its own right, but also to show how brilliantly Caro's works interact with their surroundings, particularly when placed within architecture. Some collectors can find his painted works of the ‘60s and ‘70s something of a challenge, as they are best kept (long-term) inside, or at least in under shelter – but then if you do have the space to bring them inside, this interaction with architectural space can be glorious.

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ANTHONY CARO PHOTOGRAPHING DOMINION DAY

A shot of Caro photographing Dominion Day arriving by crane for his retrospective at MoMA, New York in 1975. It still amazes me that works from the 60s and 70s, such as Gray Apron, are still at a price-level which, in the wider context of the contemporary art market, could be considered eminently 'affordable' – given that they are unique, aesthetically and conceptually complete works by an artist at the top of his game, from the period when he was considered one of the foremost sculptors in the world and good enough for a full MoMA retrospective. Surely they can’t remain so affordable for long?   

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ANTHONY CARO IN THE TEA-ROOM OF HIS GEORGIANA STREET STUDIO

An unpublished photograph of Caro in the tea-room of his Georgiana Street studio, from around the same period as Gray Apron. I had the pleasure of interviewing Caro in 2013, alongside his friend and former dealer, Kasmin. He was absorbing, wide-ranging, generous, occasionally scurrilous and very funny. Which should, of course, be no surprise: for an artist who worked in steel of astounding physical weight (and his work got heavier as he got older) there was always a wit about it, both visual and intellectual.

With sincerest thanks to Pat, Olivia and Sile at the Caro studio, for their help in providing these photographs. All images © Barford Sculptures Ltd.

 

MAIN IMAGE: ANTHONY CARO, GRAY APRON, 1972. ESTIMATE £100,000-150,000

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