BRITISH 1915 – 2005
Bernard Meadows studied painting at Norwich School of Art from 1934-6. From 1936-9 and again in 1946-8 Meadows worked as an assistant for Henry Moore, who became a close friend and great mentor to the young artist.
In 1936 at the age of 21, Meadows took part in the first surrealist exhibition in London. The war meant he would not exhibit again until the first Battersea Park open air exhibition during the Festival of Britain in 1951. However, it was in 1952, representing Britain in the Venice Biennale, that Meadows first attracted international attention. Exhibiting among the group of other young British artists that became known as the ‘Geometry of Fear’ sculptors thanks to Herbert Read’s introductory essay, it was arguably Meadows who most fitted the description and whose works most readily expressed the ‘images of flight, of ragged claws ‘scuttling across silent seas’, of excoriated flesh, frustrated sex, the geometry of fear’ to which Read referred.
Meadow’s first one-man show was held at Gimpel Fils in 1957. He went on to teach at Chelsea School of Art during the 1960s and later became an influential and inspirational professor of sculpture at the RCA, where he taught for twenty years and whose pupils included Elisabeth Frink.
Meadows found in crabs and later birds, a way of escaping the influence of Henry Moore and discovered that he could express extreme violence and represent humanity through his forms without resorting to the human figure. His bird forms are particularly eloquent, falling to earth, shattered or metamorphosing from bird form into gun barrel. Meadows said of his work:
I look upon birds and crabs as human substitutes, they are vehicles, expressing my feelings about human beings. To use non-human figures is for me at the present time less inhibiting; one is less conscious of what has gone before and is more free to take liberties with the form and to make direct statements than with the human figure: nevertheless they are essentially human…
In 1995, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park held an 80th birthday survey of Bernard Meadow’s sculpture and works on paper and his work can be found in many prestigious and private collections around the world.
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