Throughout the 1950s bronze was Paolozzi’s material of choice. As a material bronze not only seemed to define sculpture for the public, but in Britain it was also inextricably linked with Henry Moore. However, Paolozzi’s use of bronze was entirely without a hint of Moore’s influence; rather it was grasped as an opportunity to continue to innovate with form and content. One of the key developments Paolozzi made was the transfer of his interest in collage from two dimensions to three. By creating impressions of the industrial detritus he had found, such locks, clocks and other mechanical parts, into clay he could then work on the superstructure of the sculpture in one of two ways. As Paolozzi explained: ‘Either I would pour wax directly onto the clay to get a sheet or I would pour plaster onto the clay. With the plaster I then had a positive and negative form on which to pour wax. The wax sheets were pressed around forms, cut up, and added to forms or turned into shapes on their own’ (quoted in Judith Collins, Paolozzi
, Farnham, 2014, p. 110). This method led to a series of heads cast in bronze, including the present work, which revelled in the extraordinary rich texture and evocative elements of the objet trouvé
. In 1956 Lawrence Alloway described one of these bronzes: ‘the head is a head, a planet, an asteroid, a stone, a blob under a microscope. Any of these possibilities can enter his drawings and sculptures of heads without excluding others. The images are multi-evocative, not because of old-line surrealist incongruities but because of a new way of seeing wholes’ (L. Alloway, ‘Eduardo Paolozzi’, in Architectural Design
, April 1956, p. 53).
Born in Leith of Italian parentage, Paolozzi studied art at numerous schools in Scotland and London before leaving for Paris where he met and admired the work of Alberto Giacometti, Jean Arp and Constantin Brancusi. In Britain he became well-known for his highly experimental use of materials, in particular collages which presaged the Pop-Art movement. Many of his sculptures from the 1950s are now in museum collections, including Tate, London; the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Edinburgh College of Art.