Lynn Chadwick 1914-2003


Marlborough Gallery, Zurich
Private Collection
Private Collection, by descent
At Sotheby's, London, 16 Nov. 2011, lot 175
Private Collection, London


Dennis Farr and Eva Chadwick, Lynn Chadwick, Sculptor, 2006, Lund Humphries, cat. no. 664, p. 294
Lynn Chadwick regarded his figurative sculptures not as the equivalents of real human bodies but as constructions of shapes. The lively personality of works like Seated Figure I is supervenient, only emerging once the sculpture was finished and entirely unthought of in the process of preparation. Chadwick explained this process in an interview in 1995. ‘I'm trying to think, "Now, what can I do in the way of sculpture? What shapes can I make?"’

Chadwick’s work belongs to the post-war generation of British sculptors whose keystone was the work of Henry Moore. The darkened patina, faceted surfaces and angular massing of Seated Figure I are stylistically distinct from Moore’s work, yet the same formal problem was at stake for Chadwick as for Moore: how can the material, non-imitative qualities of sculpture be emphasised while continuing to suggest a figure-like presence? The problem was resolved by maintaining the silhouette of a human figure, while suppressing localised detail and replacing it with flat planes of richly patinated metal.

Seated Figure I was made using a process and materials that were distinctive to Chadwick and his sculpture. In the 1950s he discovered Stolit, a commercially produced construction material composed of plaster and iron filings. He subsequently used it for the rest of his career, employing it in conjunction with a steel armature to make his models. The malleable plaster allowed Chadwick to create the desired shape with a continuous, smoothed-out surface. In his hands, the Stolit surface was always loaded with textures; pocks, pit marks, ripples and stresses gave it a pregnant, hand-wrought appearance. These effects were then translated into patinated bronze by the foundry. This is a significant aspect of Chadwick’s sculpture in Seated Figure I and other works. An ingenious play on materials is effected, transforming supple and hand-worked surfaces into the solid, monumental, patinated metal of the finished object.