William Tucker RA

Profile

Born: 28 February 1935

Elected RA: 27 May 1992

Royal Academician

Sculptor

William Tucker read Modern History at Brazenose College, Oxford from 1955 to 1958, while also attending the Ruskin School of Drawing. In 1957 he was inspired by the exhibition Sculpture 1857-1957 at Holland Park to make his first sculptures. He made his first abstract constructions in steel and wood while studying at the Central School of Art and Design with John Warren Davies, and subsequently with Antony Caro at St Martin's School of Art in 1959-60.

At St Martin's he met Phillip King, David Annesley and the other young sculptors, whose work was to make a radical break with tradition: their sculpture was abstract, constructed in modern industrial materials and placed directly on the ground, in contrast to the figurative bronzes on pedestals favoured in the 1950s and earlier. The new sculpture was shown as a group in the influential New Generation exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1965 and in other exhibitions in the US and Europe in the 1960s.

Tucker had one person exhibitions at various galleries in London and New York from 1963, and represented Britain in the Venice Biennale of 1972 with sculptures that were more linear and optical in character, such as the Cat's Cradle and Beulah series. He was given the first one person exhibition at the Arts Council Serpentine Gallery in 1973, and in 1975 curated the exhibition The Condition of Sculpture at the Hayward Gallery.

Tucker taught at Goldsmiths' College and St Martin's during the 1960s, and in 1969 was appointed Gregory Fellow in Sculpture at the University of Leeds, where he gave a series of lectures on early modern sculpture; these were compiled with other essays and published in 1974 as The Language of Sculpture. His sculpture became larger and more frontal in aspect with such pieces as Tunnel (1975), now in the collection of the Tate Gallery, and Angel commissioned by the Scottish Arts Council for Livingstone New Town in 1976.

Working in Brooklyn, New York, in the late 1970s, Tucker continued to show constructions in steel and wood on an architectural scale, such as An Ellipse (now in the collection of the Guggenheim Museum) and The House of the Hanged Man (the Museum of Modern Art, New York). Permanent installations of work from that period include The Rim in Atlanta, Georgia, and Victory, commissioned in 1998 for the Parque de la Memoria, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

In the early 1980s Tucker moved his studio to upstate New York, and started to work directly in plaster on a scale directly related to the human figure. Cast in bronze, these sculptures were shown with earlier steel and wood constructions in William Tucker, the American Decade at the Storm King Art Center in 1987. Okeanos in that exhibition was commissioned for the Scripps Clinic and Research Center, La Jolla, California. Tucker has continued to work in plaster for bronze up to the present day at a variety of scales, and with progressively more reference to the human body, both in image and handling of the material.

During the 1990s he made many large charcoal drawings and a series of massive sculptures suggestive of male or female torsos, such as Frenhofer at the Goodwood Sculpture Park, and Maia, commissioned for the riverside park in Bilbao, Spain. In 1998 he started a series of roughly modelled heads, which were included in his 2001 retrospective exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park; he has enlarged several to heroic scale, such as Emperor shown at the RA Summer Exhibition in 2008. Messenger, based on the image of a foot, was recently shown in the Crucible exhibition at Gloucester Cathedral, and over the last several years Tucker has modelled a series of monumental sculptures suggestive of the figure but derived from the image of the hand.

Tucker's work has been recognized by various awards, including the Sculpture Center {New York) award for Distinction in Sculpture (1991), the Rodin-Moore Memorial Prize, Second Fujisankei Biennale, Japan (1995), the annual award from the New York Studio School (1999), the RA Summer Exhibition Sculpture Prize (2009), and the International Sculpture Center Lifetime Achievement Award (2010).