We are grateful to The Estate of Lynn Chadwick for their kind assistance with the cataloguing of the present work.
Chadwick first began exploring the motif of the beast as a subject in 1955, becoming a theme to which he would frequently return throughout the course of his career, and resulting in some of his most exciting and iconic works. Earlier that year he had visited Mykonos and Delos and there saw the ancient remains of the famous avenue of lions at Delos, dating from the sixth century B.C., with their menacing posture and weathered forms.
As with many of Chadwick’s works of the 1950s, Beast VII speaks in the vocabulary of the ‘geometry of fear’ - a term coined four years before by the critic Herbert Read in response to the work of Chadwick together with Kenneth Armitage, Reg Butler, Geoffrey Clark, Bernard Meadows, Eduardo Paolozzi and William Turnbull at the British Pavilion of the Venice Biennale. Their work was characterised by spiky, distorted, alien-looking twisted and tortured figures executed in pitted bronze or welded steel, and expressing the anxieties and fears of many within the post-war age. This anxiety is epitomised in Chadwick's rendering of the 'Beast' motif, and Beast VII is a superbly lithe creature with an alert, anxious, and threatening presence. Drawing on his experience as an architectural draughtsman before the war, Chadwick builds his sculptures using geometric space frames, welding metal strip together to create an armature which he referred to as ‘drawing in steel rods’ (the Artist, quoted in Michael Bird, Lynn Chadwick, Lund Humphries, London, 2014, p.28). The armature remains visible even after the application of stolit and the casting in bronze, resulting in a surface that is shattered, like a broken pane of glass. With a visible rib cage - indicating some semi-starved creature – pointed feet and a strong, sharp backbone that runs through the head, neck and tail, this is an animal at its most alert. It also showcases Chadwick at his very best, with the beast motif allowing the artist 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, reflecting the broader anxieties of the new age and the possibilities of a very different tomorrow.
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