“You can never understand every work of art completely. Each time you encounter it you have a new experience. The mystery is in this elusiveness”
William Turnbull is one of the most influential Modern British artists of the 20th century. Best known for his timeless sculptures, this dedicated auction will reveal that painting and drawing were just as vital to his practice as an artist. Whether working in bronze or wood, oil or acrylic, on the etching plate, lithographic stone or with linocut, Turnbull’s endless quest to innovate is always in evidence.
The online sale, open from 10 – 17 June, will offer forty-four works previously unseen at auction, in collaboration with Offer Waterman who represent the artist’s estate. Highlights range from Turnbull’s rarely seen graphic work from the early 1950s, through to powerful abstract paintings, works on paper and lithographs made in the 1980s and 90s, alongside three of his signature sculptures. Combining ancient symbols with modernist simplicity, these direct images speak about the human condition, beyond time and without geographical boundary, bound together by a deceptively pared-down sensibility described by an early critic as ‘The Eternal Now’.
Born in Dundee in 1922, Turnbull was fascinated by art from an early age, learning to draw by diligently copying illustrations from magazines. After the outbreak of the Second World War, a seventeen-year-old Turnbull left to serve as a pilot in the RAF and was enveloped in a new spatial sensation in the skies. On his return, he was accepted in the Slade School of Fine Art in 1946. This auction traces the artist’s journey from the early influences of his time in Paris in 1948 – where he met the likes of Alberto Giacometti, Constantin Brancusi and Paul Klee in the cafés of the Left Bank and in their studios – to his international breakthrough at the Venice Biennale in 1952 and his blazing engagement with Abstract Expressionism as he met pioneers Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman in New York in the late 1957. Alongside retrospectives at the Tate, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Chatsworth House, his influence can perhaps best be encapsulated by regular appearances of his sculptures in David Hockney’s iconic 60s paintings of California art collectors, most famously the Art Institute of Chicago's American Collectors (Fred & Marcia Weisman), proof of his burgeoning international reputation back in the day.
London | Melica Khansari| Melica.Khansari@Sothebys.com| +44 (0)20 7293 6000
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