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F.E. McWilliam RA, The Couple

The Couple, 1934

F.E. McWilliam RA (1909 - 1992)

RA Collection: Art

'The Coupl'e is one of McWilliam's earliest sculptures. In 1932, following the collapse of the pound, he and his new wife, the painter, Beth Crowther (1910-98) were forced to return to England from Paris. They rented a cottage at Chartridge, Buckinghamshire, where McWilliam made his first serious ventures into carving in wood. It was here that he made the 'The Couple' using cherry wood from the orchards surrounding the cottage.

McWilliam worked not only in bronze but a diverse range of woods and stones throughout his career. During his childhood in Banbridge, Co. Down he developed a deep fascination with the disciplines of craftsmanship and materials, having grown up on a street where he could watch coopers, furniture makers and rope makers at work.

Although semi-abstracted in form McWilliam's Diploma work, is like all his sculptures, based upon the human figure. The attenuated bodies of the couple are undivided and appear to emerge out of the firm base, suggesting solidity combined with a joyful lyricism. McWilliam's juxtaposition of smooth polished surfaces with geometric wedges, relates to African sculpture and the work of Ossip Zakine and Constantin Brancusi, which he had seen and admired in Paris.

McWilliam made 'The Couple' during a period of relative isolation, when he explored and developed a personal visual language that was to become consolidated on his joining the British Surrealist group in 1937.

Object details

The Couple
F.E. McWilliam RA (1909 - 1992)
Object type
Copyright owner
Carved wood

740 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Diploma Work given by F.E. McWilliam RA accepted 1990
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