Lot 31
  • 31

William Turnbull

60,000 - 80,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • William Turnbull
  • Male Figure
  • stamped with Artist's monogram, numbered 1/6 and dated 89
  • bronze
  • height: 185cm.; 72¾in.
  • Conceived in 1989, the present work is number 1 from the edition of 6.


Waddington Galleries, London, where acquired by the present owner, 1998


New York, Arnold Hestand & Co., William Turnbull, 1989 (details untraced);
London, Waddington Galleries, British Art from 1930, 27th February - 23rd March 1991, cat. no.30, illustrated (another cast);
London, Waddington Galleries, William Turnbull, 19th October - 25th November 1991, cat. no.7, illustrated (another cast).


Ann Elliott, Sculpture at Goodwood 1, The Hat Hill Sculpture Foundation, exh. cat., 1995, p.75, illustrated pl.54 (another cast);
Amanda A. Davidson, The Sculpture of William Turnbull, The Henry Moore Foundation in association with Lund Humphries, Aldershot, 2005, cat. no.261, p.175, illustrated p.46 (another cast);
Patrick Elliott et.al., William Turnbull at Chatsworth, exh. cat., 2013, illustrated p.2 (another cast).


Structurally sound. There is very minor, light surface dirt and traces of surface matter, owing to the work having been housed outside, with some slight, minor spots of oxidisation to the extreme top. These excepting the work appears in excellent overall condition, with a deep, rich patina. Please contact the department on +44 (0) 207 293 6424 if you have any questions regarding the present lot.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Throughout the course of his career Turnbull was fascinated with the idea of ancient, non-Western cultures and civilisations, and the idea of archetypes – images and forms that speak of the human condition beyond time and without geographical limitation. This fascination with the ‘primitive’ emerged whilst he was still studying at the Slade, London, and continued throughout the course of his expansive career. It is seen in some of his most instantly recognisable works, from the totemic sculpture that features in Hockney’s iconic 1960s painting Beverley Hills Housewife (1966-7, Private Collection), through to his awe-inspiring Large Horse (sold in these rooms, 10th December 2013), and was a driving force in his creation of both sculpture and painting.

The late 1960s and 1970s marked a radical departure in the Artist’s methods. However by the beginning of the 1980s he returned once more to themes that had previously dominated his creative output, approaching these same ideas with a renewed sense of energy and enthusiasm. Indeed the 1980s were to prove an exceedingly fruitful decade for Turnbull in terms of his sculptural production, as he returned to the theme of heads, masks, figures and horses. He explored ideas and motifs which he had developed in his 1950s sculptures, but with a new-found clarity and crispness of expression. With this bold new confidence he returned to his interest in the sculpture and artefacts of ancient cultures, and especially to ideas of fertility in both a male and female form. In works such as Queen (1969, Tate, London), Turnbull drew attention to the form, standing tall and erect, with a surface scarred to mark the breasts and genitals. These became symbols or tokens of another, unknown culture, yet, as in the work of Constantin Brancusi, would be instantly recognisable to an almost universal audience. His forms took on a gender through the addition of recognised shapes and markings, seen clearly in the square, bulky presence of the body of the present work, with a balanced ovoid form on top.

Turnbull had always placed great emphasis on the surface of his sculptures whether in the densely textured assemblage-style surfaces of his immediately Post-War works, which draw comparisons with those of Eduardo Paolozzi and Alberto Giacometti, or, by the 1980s, to the deep, rich patinas and the beginning of his scoring and markings onto the body. Alongside the painterly attention that he paid to the patinated surfaces of the bronze, these calligraphic incisions break the soft, smooth faces, emphasising certain aspects and drawing references to the tribal markings of non-Western cultures. With the beautifully aggressive Fontana-style single slash that dominates the front face of the present work, our thoughts are drawn to the masculinity of some unknown ancient warrior, and the role that this stoic male figure plays in our history.