Anthony Caro was already a successful artist when he changed his style and brought about a renewal in British sculpture, helping to introduce abstraction in a new way. His impact was all the greater because he was an important teacher as well as a practitioner of sculpture. Over a number of decades teaching at St. Martin’s School of Art, he had a wide range of students who were influenced by his ideas.

Caro was the son of a stockbroker and attended Charterhouse School before going to Cambridge University. At the end of the Second World War, he served in the Fleet Air Arm. After his discharge, he studied sculpture at the Regent Street Polytechnic. A couple of years later, he married Sheila Girling, a painter, with whom he would often exhibit in the decades to follow.

In the period following the Second World War, sculpture in Great Britain was dominated by the towering figure of Henry Moore. Caro was no exception to Moore’s influence: indeed, he was Moore’s studio assistant in Much Hadham for some time, and also created his own looming, figurative works. During this time, he also began to experiment more and more with different types of material. At the end of the 1950s, Caro travelled to America, where he was exposed to the ideas of Clement Greenberg and the sculptures of David Smith, among others.

Caro began to create sculptures using welding to bond his materials. Many of the earlier works from this period featured industrial-looking metal forms that were connected together and then painted. They often retained a tumbling sense of geometry, partly invoked through the pieces of metal themselves. Caro’s large sculptures from this time were placed directly on the floor, rather than on any form of pedestal or stand, resulting in a more immediate relationship with the space in which they were placed, and with their viewer. The impact of this idea became all the more apparent after his highly-influential 1963 exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London.

In the later 1960s, Caro began to create his Table Pieces. These transposed some of his ideas to a more domestic scale and setting. They often incorporated found materials; they tend to incorporate elements that hang over the edge of the place they are shown, creating a different dialogue with space. In the 1970s, he began to use untreated steel in his sculptures, having been fascinated by it while working in Verduggio in Italy. Over the following decades Caro cemented his reputation, working in the United Kingdom and in the USA, creating sculptures on both a monumental and a more intimate scale. Many of the larger works have entered the public realm either in galleries or as monuments. He was knighted in 1987 and granted the prestigious Order of Merit in 2000.

Exhibitions

Julio González
First Master of the Torch

in dialogue with
Pablo Picasso
David Smith
Eduardo Chillida
Anthony Caro

14 February – 02 April 2012

Publications

Julio González
First Master of the Torch

in dialogue with
Pablo Picasso
David Smith
Eduardo Chillida
Anthony Caro