Lot 12
  • 12

William Turnbull

bidding is closed


  • William Turnbull
  • Sextet
  • painted steel
  • each: 137.1 by 12.7 by 12.7cm.
  • 54 by 5 by 5in.


Waddington Galleries, London (acquired from the artist in 1983)
Sutton Manor Arts Centre, Sutton Scotney, Winchester (acquired from the above)


London, Waddington Galleries, William Turnbull: Sculpture 1967-1968, 1970, no. 5, illustrated in the catalogue
London, Tate Gallery, William Turnbull: Sculpture and Painting, 1973, no. 72, illustrated in the catalogue


Walter J. Strachan, Open Air Sculpture in Britain: A Comprehensive Guide, London, 1984, no. 50
William Turnbull: Sculpture and Paintings (exhibition catalogue), The Serpentine Gallery, London, 1995, no. 35, illustrated p. 58
Amanda A. Davidson, The Sculpture of William Turnbull, Aldershot, 2005, no. 160, illustrated in colour p. 44
William Turnbull at Chatsworth (exhibition catalogue), Chatsworth House, Bakewell, Derbyshire, 2013, illustrated in colour p. 29

Catalogue Note

Conveying an impressive sensation of strength and solidity, Sextet is a significant example of William Turnbull’s work from the 1960s. Six red painted stainless steel elements are arranged in a manner reminiscent of Neolithic stone circles, encouraging viewers to interact with each individual form and strongly engage with the work in its entirety, an intention reinforced by the work’s title. In musical parlance, a sextet is a small chamber group made up of six performers, each of whom has a very distinct but crucial part to play in the formation of the whole.

Throughout his long career, Turnbull worked in a variety of different styles which reflected the international face of European modernism whilst utilising a creative vocabulary that was utterly distinctive. Having left the Slade School of Art to live in Paris, Turnbull returned to London in the early 1950s. His breakthrough came in 1952 when Herbert Read selected him to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale, along with Robert Adams, Kenneth Armitage, Reg Butler, Lynn Chadwick, Geoffrey Clarke, Bernard Meadows and Eduardo Paolozzi, in an exhibition entitled New Aspects of British Sculpture.

During the later 1960s, Turnbull became increasingly interested in the ideas of American Minimalist artists such as Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt. Judd in particular advocated the creation of a new form of art which did not conform to the conventional tenets of either sculpture or painting: instead, the primacy of pure form itself was celebrated.