Lot 4
  • 4

Reg Butler

60,000 - 80,000 GBP
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  • Reg Butler
  • Machine
  • stamped with Artist's monogram; also stamped with Artist's monogram, dated 53 and numbered on the underside
  • shell bronze
  • 33 by 77 by 41cm.; 13 by 30¼ by 16in.
  • Conceived in 1953, the present work is number 2 from the intended edition of 4, of which only two are understood to have been cast.


Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin), New York
Morton G. Neumann, Chicago
Carl Djerassi, California and London
Gimpel Fils, London, where acquired by the present owner


London, Hanover Gallery, Reg Butler, 22nd April - 4th June 1954, cat. no.27 (another cast);
New York, Curt Valentin Gallery, Reg Butler, 11th January - 5th February 1955, cat. no.44, illustrated;
Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, The 1961 Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Contemporary Painting and Sculpture, 27th October 1961 - 7th January 1962, cat. no.463 (another cast);
San Francisco, Rena Bransten Gallery, The Bay Area Collectors: A Focus on Sculpture, February - March 1987 (details untraced);
Chicago, David & Alfred Smart Museum of Art, From Blast to Pop: Aspects of Modern British Art, 1915 - 1965, 17th April - 15th June 1997, cat. no.58, illustrated pl.8 and p.84, with national tour (another cast);
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 'Forjar el Espacio' La Escultura Forjada del Siglio XX, 24th November 1998 - 7th February 1999, cat. no.13, illustrated p.254, with tour to IVAM Centre Julio Gonzales, Valencia and Musée des Beaux-Arts et de la Dentelle, Calais;
Stroud, Pangolin Gallery, 'Vitalism' British Sculpture of the 50's, November 2001, illustrated p.15;
London, James Hyman Fine Art, Henry Moore and the Geometry of Fear: Robert Adams, Kenneth Armitage, Reg Butler, Lynn Chadwick, Geoffrey Clarke, Bernard Meadows, Henry Moore, Eduardo Paolozzi and William Turnbull, 19th November 2002 - 18th January 2003, cat. no.7, illustrated;
London, Gimpel Fils, Reg Butler, 11th September - 11th October 2003, cat. no.2;
London, Pangolin Gallery, Exorcising the Fear: British Sculpture from the 50s & 60s, 11th January - 3rd March 2012, illustrated pp.34-5.


Margaret Garlake, The Sculpture of Reg Butler, The Henry Moore Foundation in association with Lund Humphries, Aldershot, 2006, cat. no.127, illustrated pl.3 (another cast).


The sculpture is sound. There are fine hairline cracks at the ankles of the figure. There is a further tiny hairline crack to the bar between the figure's feet. There are one or two very small spots of oxidisation to the base as well as one or two small areas of very light rubbing. There are two light scuffs to the front corners of the base. There are traces of casting residue and one or two small areas of oxidisation to the shield element. The patina is slightly uneven in places, most notably to the chest of the figure. There is some light surface dirt in the crevices of the bronze. Subject to the above the work is in good overall condition. The sculpture is freestanding. Please telephone the department on +44 207 293 6424 if you have any questions.
"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

Butler is unique as an artist for having two very distinct, yet complementary, highly accomplished careers. Cottrell Butler practiced as an architect from 1936 to 1950, while Reg was responsible for producing some of the most avant-garde sculpture of the 1950s. He was essentially untrained as an artist, but as a qualified architect his approach to sculpture was fundamentally architectonic in conception, for his only practical training had been as a blacksmith during the war and a short stint as an assistant in Henry Moore’s studio. This unique approach led to his quick recognition as an artist of exceptional talent, whose idiosyncratic style and experimental approach drew the attention of contemporary artists and critics alike - exhibiting at both the 1952 and 1954 Biennales in Venice. As such Butler was one of the early generation of British sculptors, alongside Lynn Chadwick, William Turnbull, and Eduardo Paolozzi, whose work inspired the critic Herbert Read to coin the phrase ‘Geometry of Fear’ to describe their shared aesthetic.

As one of Butler’s earliest works, Machine is one of these important and seminal pieces that led to his international recognition. Butler was represented by Erica Brausen at the Hanover Gallery in London and by Curt Valentin at the Buchholz Gallery in New York, alongside Alexander Calder and Marino Marini. This cast of Machine, of which very few casts were made and none of which have before been seen on the open market, was sold by Curt Valentin to Morton Neumann in Chicago. Neumann was a pioneering collector of Modernism whose collection (of which 27 items were sold at Sotheby’s in 1998) included work by Picasso, Miro and Klee but also Giacometti, Dubuffet, Fontana, Jorn and Manzoni.

The chariot-like figure of Machine bears close comparison to Giacometti’s The Chariot (1950, Museum of Modern Art, New York) but also to ancient bronzes such as the fourteenth century BC Chariot of the Sun (National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen). Butler, who was closely connected to the European avant-garde as an editor of an architectural magazine, would certainly have been aware of artistic developments in Europe and the US, further emphasising Machine’s status as an important and only recently recognised, contribution to post-war Modernist art.