Executed in 1953.
London, Hanover Gallery, Reg Butler, April - June 1954, cat. no.26, as Boat;
New York, Curt Valentin Gallery, Reg Butler, January - February 1955, cat. no.23.
Although he initially studied and practised as an architect in the 1930s, Butler trained as a blacksmith during WWII and this experience and understanding of metals was to stand him in good stead with the series of forged, cast and welded sculptures that he produced in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The wider introduction of the oxy-acetylene torch in the post-war period allowed a number of sculptors to experiment with this medium, and amongst Butler's contemporaries the best known exponents are probably Lynn Chadwick and the Spaniard, Eduardo Chillida.
The series of figure pieces which Butler produced in this period were the sculptures which secured his international reputation, with works being acquired by a number of museums and collectors worldwide, including Peggy Guggenheim and MoMA, New York. Whilst the majority of the pieces are either forged in iron or constructed from bent copper or bronze wire and sheet metal, the present sculpture is an early example of Butler's use of shell bronze, an unusual alloy that was light and relatively easy to work and which Butler used extensively throughout the decade. The attenuated standing female figure of Woman on Boat relates to Butler's exploration of similar figures in Young Woman Standing (Wakefield Art Gallery, Wakefield) and Woman Standing (Museum of Modern Art, New York) which use both copper sheet and wire to form the open contours of the figure, whilst it looks forward to the more contorted standing figures he was to produce later in the decade.
The present work was originally purchased by Vera List, the previous owner, from the now legendary Curt Valentin Gallery in New York. Valentin's championing of British contemporary art, especially that of Moore, Butler, Sutherland and Piper, in the 1940s and 1950s did much to ensure the place of these artists in distinguished private and institutional collections throughout America.
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