Bernard Meadows 1915-2005


Gimpel Fils, London

Private Collection, UK 


32nd Venice Biennale, 1964

Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1962 cat. No.303  


Alan Bowness, Bernard Meadows, Sculpture and Drawings, Lund Humphries, 1995 (illustrated)                                   


Bernard Meadows belonged to the group of expressionistic sculptures who won prominence at the Venice Biennale in1952.The critic Herbert Read dubbed them the ‘geometry of fear’ school of British sculpture.

Meadow’s contemporaries included Kenneth Armitage, Reg Butler and Lynn Chadwick and while teaching at Chelsea School of Art, amongst his students were Elizabeth Frink, Robert Clatworthy and Rosalind Stracey. Between 1936 and 1940, Meadows spent his spare time assisting Henry Moore and maintained a lifelong friendship and worked together on several celebrated works. His early bronzes of crabs, cocks and dead birds became a pertinent metaphor for the vulnerability of the human condition in the early Cold War period. The recurring icon of the crab originated in Meadow’s war-time experiences; while serving in the RAF he was stationed on the strategically important Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean and became fascinated by the daily spectre of armies of Crabs parading along the shoreline of the coral atoll.

Meadows used animal imagery symbolically as ‘a human substitute’. Images of the human figure emerged during the 60’s in such works as The Armed Bust series, which continued to evoke analogies with the claws and hooks or outer armour of the Crustacea, that had been such an important early influence, while at the same time expressing the often discomforting truths he felt about the world and man’s place in it.