Lynn Chadwick 1914-2003


Private Collection, USA
Private Collection, USA, by descent


Dennis Farr and Éva Chadwick, Lynn Chadwick: Sculptor: With a Complete Illustrated Catalogue 1947 - 2005, Lund Humphries, 2006, cat. no. 676, pp. 298-99 (col. illus.)
This small group is a considered addition to Chadwick’s post-war cycle of dystopian figural work. The figures use the artist’s distinctive style of abstracted figuration, with pointed legs, characterless faces and armless torsos. Their heads are television-like screens, devoid of character and therefore restricting the range of emotional expression available to the artist. Indeed, emotion was not Chadwick’s central concern, and his transformation of the human body is effective less for its pathos than for its formal ingenuity and sculptural rigour.

The wings of the two figures intersect and they stand together in close proximity. There is a formal conversation between them, the two adjacent wings coming together in a jigsaw-like configuration. Chadwick started developing the winged figure format in 1955. The earliest maquette in this format, Winged Figures (1955, Tate Collection), has the two figures confronting one another. They are suggestively conjoined at the groin and their wings are clipped, strange and textured extrusions that compensate for their missing arms. The same proportions are used in Maquette VIII Two Winged Figures, yet by the 1970s Chadwick had considerably refined and intensified the figures’ formal qualities. Their wings are smooth to the touch and massive, reaching to the ground and enabling each figure to stand independently. Though they have gained a face-like presence, lacking in the earlier format, this only serves to emphasise the figures’ lack of identity.

Chadwick served as a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm during the Second World War, and it has been suggested that his winged figures owe some debt to his wartime experience. Though these figures are winged, however, they are resolutely grounded. They stand upright in gestureless poses and by 1973, when this maquette was made, it seems that flight had become merely an idea – something to be thought of or dreamed about, but in reality quite impossible.

The format for the figures’ interlocking wings was formally innovative. Though Chadwick had previously arranged independent figures in similar relationships, a number of designs and finished sculptures show that the artist tended to conceive his figures as conjoined, continuous forms. Two Winged Figures (1968–71), for example, shows two monumental figures with a shared, continuous torso. Similarly, a contemporaneous sculpture, Winged Figures II (1973, Yale Center for British Art), shows two adjunct figures joined from the shoulder. In Maquette VIII Two Winged Figures, the figures are brought together but left independent, separate yet only complete when brought into conversation with one another.

These formal innovations ultimately served Chadwick’s overarching sculptural idea, a remarkable transformation of the human body in the time after the Second World War. His distorted figures, with their attenuated legs, faceless heads and armless torsos, allude to the injuries of war. Maquette VIII Two Winged Figures speaks to these issues. The relationship between the male and female figures is anonymous yet profound, and though they are closely connected in the formal relationship of their bodies, a searching sense of anomie characterises the group.