Lot 1
  • 1

Reg Butler

bidding is closed


  • Reg Butler
  • Manipulator
  • bronze
  • 178 by 71 by 52cm.
  • 70 by 28 by 20 1/2 in.


Walter Bareiss, Stamford, Connecticut (sold by his estate: Sotheby’s, London, 11th December 2006, lot 109)
Connaught Brown, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2011


Reg Butler (exhibition catalogue), Curt Valentin Gallery, New York, 1955, no. 42, illustration of another cast
Contemporary British Painting and Sculpture (exhibition catalogue), Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, 1964, no. 10, illustration of another cast
Reg Butler (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1983-84, no. 51, illustration of another cast
Margaret Garlake, New Art New World: British Art in Postwar Society, New Haven & London, 1998, p. 198
Margaret Garlake, The Sculpture of Reg Butler, London, 2006, no. 149, illustration of another cast pp. 14 & 47

Catalogue Note

Male figures are rare in Butler’s œuvre, and when they do appear, they are generally found to be holding or operating some kind of machinery. Manipulator is one of Butler’s earliest large-scale bronze sculptures and holds a network of rods whilst his head is thrown back. The figure is lifted off the ground on a grid similar to that which was to become a feature of his female figures during the 1950s. These metal elements are curious props, suggesting an uneasy balance between the organic and the mechanical – a key motif for the artists now collectively known by the term ‘Geometry of Fear’. Commentators have noted the comparisons between Butler’s sculpture and the work of Francis Bacon, and indeed their work had been shown together at the I.C.A., along with that of Germaine Richier, in the London/Paris exhibition in 1950. Butler and Bacon also exhibited regularly with the Hanover Gallery in London throughout the decade, and their ability to express a sense of psychological angst in a physical form was a key concern of both artists.

Butler was a man with two distinct, yet highly accomplished, careers. As Cottrell Butler he was an architect with a burgeoning practice, and as Reg he created avant-garde sculpture. Butler studied architecture and lectured at the Architectural Association School, London, but was essentially untrained as an artist. He worked as a blacksmith during the Second World War, after which he joined Henry Moore's studio as an assistant in 1947. In late 1940s and 1950s Bulter became known as an artist of exceptional talent, whose idiosyncratic style and experimental approach drew the attention of his contemporary artists and critics alike. He held a one man show at the He exhibited in both the 1952 and 1954 Biennales in Venice alongside his peers.

Casts of this sculpture are in the collections of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Washington and the Detroit Institute of Arts.