LYNN CHADWICK, R.A. | Beast XXI
- Lynn Chadwick
- Beast XXI
- signed, dated 59, numbered 315 and 1/6 and stamped with foundry mark
New York, Knoedler Galleries, Lynn Chadwick, 3rd - 28th January 1961, illustrated (another cast);
Bregenz, Englischer Kunst der Gegenwart, 1977, cat. no.58 (another cast);
London, Grosvenor Gallery, Sculpture of the 20th Century by British and European Artists, 21st - 31st October 2003, cat. no.7, illustrated (another cast).
Dennis Farr and Eva Chadwick, Lynn Chadwick Sculptor, Lund Humphries, Farnham, 2014, cat. no.315, illustrated p.182.
Chadwick first struck upon the beast as a subject in 1955, and it was to become a theme to which he frequently returned, inspiring some of his best work. It may be significant that earlier in the year he visited Mykonos and Delos and saw the ancient remains of the famous avenue of lions at Delos, that have been dated to the second quarter of the sixth century B.C. He greatly admired these ancient sculptures with their menacing posture and weathered forms and they may have been a catalyst for his preoccupation with the subject (Dennis Farr, Lynn Chadwick, Tate Publishing, London, 2003, pp.51-52). The beast allowed Chadwick to create a sculptural metaphor for the essence of animality without ensnaring him in the representational or illusionistic. Superficially an abstraction, these works do not represent a particular kind of beast; instead they pulsate with a mysterious animal vigour.
Beast XXI is a lithe creature with an alert, anxious, and threatening presence. Its surface is shattered. The sharp angles of its form are led by the long horizontal line that runs through the head, spine and tail. Chadwick did not go to art school and had no formal training as a sculptor. Instead he transferred his experience as an architectural draughtsman to his sculptural technique. He built his sculptures using geometric space frames, welding metal strips together to create an armature, which he referred to as 'drawings in steel rods' (Lynn Chadwick quoted in Michael Bird, Lynn Chadwick, Lund Humphries, London, p.28). To these structures Chadwick applied stolit, an immensely strong artificial stone, made of a paste of gypsum and powdered iron which sets hard and could then be filed and chiselled. By hatching and carving the surfaces of his sculptures, Chadwick made them vital and alive. However, the armature, even after filling-in, is never disguised, but becomes an essential part of the surface, evoking tensions of muscle, skin and bone. In the later part of the decade, Chadwick began very successfully to cast these works in bronze. This was a more durable material than iron and composition and one that allowed for the production of several casts. Its sleeker surface also better complemented the angular form of the works. A polished rib catches the light, drawing the eye quickly about the body in the direction lines of the armature that show underneath the skin, creating a tense dynamism.
As with most of Chadwick’s works of the 1950s, Beast XXI speaks in the vocabulary of the ‘geometry of fear’. This term was coined in 1952 by the poet and art critic Herbert Read. He used the phrase in a review of the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale. The British contribution was an exhibition of the work from a group of young sculptors, including Robert Adams, Kenneth Armitage, Reg Butler, Geoffrey Clarke, Bernard Meadows, Eduardo Paolozzi, William Turnbull and of course Lynn Chadwick, who had emerged immediately after the Second World War, following in the footsteps of Henry Moore. Their work was characterised by spiky, alien-looking twisted and tortured figures. These were executed in pitted bronze or welded metal and vividly expressed a range of states of mind and emotions related to the anxieties and fears of the post-war period. Read wrote: ‘These new images belong to the iconography of despair, or of defiance; and the more innocent the artist, the more effectively he transmits the collective guilt. Here are images of flight, or ragged claws "scuttling across the floors of silent seas", of excoriated flesh, frustrated sex, the geometry of fear' (Herbert Read, ‘New Aspects of British Sculpture’, The XXVI Venice Biennale: The British Pavilion, 1952).