Lynn Chadwick RA (1914 - 2003)
RA Collection: People and Organisations
Lynn Chadwick never formally trained as a sculptor, but he became one of the 20th century’s best-known and recognisable artists, developing his own unique construction techniques.
Born in London in 1914, Chadwick was interested in art from an early age but was encouraged by his teachers to pursue architecture as a more viable career. He subsequently trained as a draughtsman, before joining the Fleet Air Arm in 1941. Immediately after the war he began to venture further into the art world, winning a textile design competition in 1946 and entering a mobile into an exhibition at the London art gallery, Gimpel Fils. When the mobile sold, the gallery gave him a solo exhibition the following year, prompting Chadwick to move out of the city to a village near Cheltenham, where he would have room for a studio.
The Gimpel Fils show was a success, launching Chadwick onto the international stage. He began to receive high-profile commissions almost immediately, including two works for the 1951 Festival of Britain. By 1956, he’d moved away from the moving parts of the large-scale mobiles with which he’d made his name, representing Britain at the Venice Biennale with a series of angular, anthropomorphic sculptures, made by welding together frames of iron rods and filling them in with “stolit”, a plaster and iron compound. After just six years as a sculptor, Chadwick won the International Sculpture Prize in Venice, beating the established favourite, Alberto Giacometti. At 42 he was the youngest sculptor ever to receive the honour.
In 1958 Chadwick bought Lypiatt Park, a sprawling manor house outside Stroud, where he would live for the rest of his life. During the 1960s Chadwick continued to receive high-profile commissions and was awarded a CBE in 1964. In 1971 Chadwick established a foundry at Lypiatt Park and began to install his own bronze works in the gardens of his home, forming the beginnings of his own sculpture park.
Chadwick was invited back to the Venice Biennale in 1988 and exhibited an immense statue that exemplifies his later style. Titled Back to Venice, it presents a geometric male and female couple sitting together on a bench. In the 1990s, Chadwick began work on the steel Beast series, using triangular sheets of stainless steel to create jagged animalistic figures.
In later years, Chadwick’s work became less well-known in his home country, although he remained well-established abroad. The new millennium heralded a reassessment of his work; in 2001, Chadwick was elected a Senior Royal Academician and two years later, Tate Britain staged the first major retrospective of his work. Sadly, Chadwick passed away five months before it opened.
Born: 24 November 1914 in London, England, United Kingdom
Died: 25 April 2003
Elected RA: 24 May 2001
Elected Senior RA: 24 May 2001
Preferred media: Sculpture