Lynn Russell Chadwick (1914-2003)
Lynn Russell Chadwick is an English sculptor born in London in 1914. Educated in the prestigious Merchant Taylors’ School in Northwood, he wished to become an artist, but was prudently guided toward architecture.
He became an apprentice draughtsman in various architectural firms, including that of Rodney Thomas, who introduced him to the architecture and design of contemporary Europe. Architectural drawing was his only artistic training: ‘What it taught me was how to compose things, a formal exercise in composition...’
After the war, during which he volunteered as a pilot, he returned to Thomas and constructed from 1947, mobiles made from balsa wood, copper, and brass, frequently in the form of coloured fish. He then mounted each upon a socle, transforming it into a stable structure. ‘I sought to produce a tangible object that invites our touch.’
Seeking a life change, he left London in 1947 for the country and created his first sculptures. In 1958, he bought Lypiatt Park, a manor in the Neo-Gothic style, for almost nothing, and installed a blacksmith’s anvil in the chapel. He restored the building and garden in 1986, and bought the surrounding grounds upon which to install his sculptures.
From his first solo exhibition in 1950 at Galerie Gimpel Fils he attracted the attention of critics and then received numerous important commissions, both private and public, such as the immense Fisheater, exhibited at the Tate Gallery from 1951-1952.
To improve his welding techniques with iron, steel, brass, and copper that he expected to use on his monumental sculptures for public spaces, Chadwick took courses in a specialised school.
From 1952, he took part in a group of eight young sculptors (including Robert Adams, Kenneth Armitage, Reg Butler, Geoffrey Clark, Bernard Meadows, Eduardo Paolozzi and William Turnbull) invited to exhibit in the British Pavilion at the 26th Biennale in Venice. The critics were seduced by his work: ‘These new images are those of hopelessness and defeat, and it is the most innocent artist who best transmits collective guilt. These are the images of flight, of damaged talons ‘scratching the surface of silent seas’, of skinned flesh, of sexual frustration, the geometry of fear.’ (Cf. Read, 2014).
This success launched on a global scale the self-taught sculptor, who injected energy into his solid forms: he composed them by first exploring the expressive potential of a structure made of rods of welded steel, then dressed it in a tactile body. First in iron and steel, his sculptures take the form of mobiles, animals, individual or grouped figures of men and women. Then at the end of the 1950s, he began to cast in bronze.
In 1954, Chadwick discovered the Stolit, an industrial stone composed of gypsum and steel, which is applied wet and can be worked while it dries to give either a rough or smooth surface: this new technique marks an important turn in the working method of the sculptor.
In 1956 he was the youngest artist to receive the International Sculpture Prize at the 28th Biennale in Venice, defeating the favourite Giacometti, César, and Richier.
Critics linked Chadwick’s oeuvre with post-war aesthetics and sensitivity. The 1960s brought the rise of Pop Art, which Chadwick’s oeuvre endured, and in spite of which, he continued to receive numerous private and public commissions, notably in Italy, Denmark, and Belgium.
Invited to participate in the exhibition ‘La Sculpture dans la cité’ (The Sculpture in the City) in Spoleto, Italy, in 1962, he created a monumental sculpture in the manner of David Smith, Alexander Calder, etc: Two Winged Figures, the first sculpture he cast in bronze.
In 1962, Herbert Read noted the evolution Chadwick’s style had undergone since 1956: ‘he always sought to render a state of vigilance in his human and animal figures, his objective being to capture the instant where intensity is maximised, and he employed from then on more direct means, reducing the figural gestures to their magnetic lines of force.’
Through the 1960s, Chadwick took on a more abstract style, such as King (1964), influenced by the sculptures of Easter Island, or the coloured series Pyramid and Split, pure geometric forms in Formica or in wood. He also made ‘abstract’ human forms, men having for a head a rectangular block, and women an equally abstract but more delicate head in the shape of a pyramid or diamond.
In the end of the 1960s, Chadwick worked on complex groups of figures such as the series Elektra, and he focused on polishing certain surfaces of the bronze to accentuate certain parts of the anatomy, such as in Three Elektra (1969). He also utilised a matte patina over certain bronzes, of which the face or chest was rubbed to obtain a brilliant gold (Elektra) as he wished to preserve some contrast and colour.
In 1973, Chadwick began to dress his figures with pleated drapery or undulating coats forming the wings of Pair of Walking Figures, for example. And in the 1980s, he exaggerated even more the effects of wind on the figures (High Wind). Couples dressed and seated on a bench appear, thus, as a sign that Chadwick tried to apply his method to naturalism. ‘That which counts in my figures is always their attitude and that which they express through their forms. They speak, and many do not understand this.’ Chadwick recommends displaying the work at eye-level in order to best appreciate it.
The year 1989 marks his return to steel, forsaken since 1962: with Rising Beast, he began a numerous series of Beasts of all sizes, including many monumental. These faceted works with multiple sides, in welded stainless steel that capture and reflect light, embody the ultimate step in the development of his technique.
He stopped working in 1995 and died in 2003, leaving one sculpture untreated in mass and volume – as a sculpture of the generation of Henry Moore – but born from structure and line, expressively dynamic, combining elegance and tension.
His oeuvre is represented in numerous public collections distributed throughout the world, including: The Art Institute of Chicago; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Royal Academy of Arts, London; the Israel Museum, Jerusalem; the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels; and the Musée Rodin, Paris.
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Art works from Lynn Russell Chadwick
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