Biography

 

1922
Born Dundee, Scotland, 11 January
1937
After leaving school he takes odd jobs as a labourer, and attends art classes two or three evenings a week at Dundee University where he is taught by the landscape painter James McIntosh Patrick
1939–41
Employed in the illustration department of D.C. Thompson, a national periodical company in Dundee, where he works alongside a number of designers and illustrators
1941
Drafted into the Services, he joins the RAF as a pilot, and flies on war service in Canada, India and Ceylon
1946
Accepted into the painting department at the Slade School of Fine Art, London, but almost immediately transfers to the sculpture department
1947
Spends six weeks travelling in Italy, and on the way back visits Paris for the first time
1948
Moves to Paris where he meets Léger, Giacometti and Brancusi among others
1950
In February, he has a joint exhibition with Eduardo Paolozzi at the Hanover Gallery, London, organized by a mutual friend David Sylvester. At the end of the year, takes up permanent residence in London. Makes two films with Alan Forbes, an American living in London, which are later shown at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) 1952 Included in ‘Young Sculptors’ at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), the focal point for new art in London. Becomes a member of the Independent Group, a splinter group within the ICA which became an important forum for discussion and debate. Included in ‘New Aspects of British Sculpture’, an exhibition in the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale selected by Herbert Read. Teaches experimental design at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, London, a part-time position he holds until 1961
1955
Makes his first standing figure, a subject that represents a new preoccupation with stillness and silence
1957
Abandons figurative references in his painting. Visits the USA for the first time and travels to New York where he is introduced to Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman by Donald Blinken
1960
Marries sculptor and printmaker, Kim Lim. They have two sons, Alex and Johnny
1962–63
First visits to Japan, Cambodia, and Lim’s native Singapore. A series of gate sculptures followed, inspired by the religious sites he had visited on his recent travels
1964
Teaches sculpture part-time at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, a position he holds until 1972. Begins working in steel, a medium he continues to explore over the next eight years or so
1967–68
Works in Perspex and fibreglass, materials he values for their reflective quality and their transparency
1969
Designs Basho: The Records of a Weathered Exposed Skeleton, a book of haiku poetry by the seventeenth-century Japanese writer Matsuo Basho, published in a limited edition by Alistair McAlpine Publishing Ltd, London
1970
Makes a series of drawings to illustrate The Garden of Caresses, an anonymous Arabian text from around the tenth century A.D., published in a limited edition by Alistair McAlpine Publishing Ltd, London
1972 C
ommissioned by the Peter Stuyvesant Foundation to create a public sculpture for the Peter Stuyvesant City Sculpture Project, for which eight cities were asked to show sculptures by two artists for six months. Turnbull was invited to show in Liverpool
1973
Major retrospective exhibition opens at the Tate Gallery, organized by Richard Morphet. On seeing all his work together in one exhibition, Turnbull decides to re-think the direction of his work. He begins to move away from the more modular, steel sculptures he had been creating and returns to the moulded, textured work of his early career
1982
Included in the second part of a major survey of British sculpture in the 20th century, ‘Symbol and Imagination 1951–1980’, at the Whitechapel Art Gallery
1984
Joint exhibition with Kim Lim at the National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore
1987
Included in ‘British Art in the Twentieth Century: The Modern Movement’ at the Royal Academy of Arts, London touring to Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
1995
An exhibition of sculpture and paintings, selected by David Sylvester, opens at the Serpentine Gallery in November
1998
Exhibition of sculpture and paintings opens at Waddington Galleries in June
2001
‘Horses – Development of a theme, Other Sculptures and Paintings’ opens at Waddington Galleries in June
2004
Large Horse, 1990, installed at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield. Exhibition of paintings and bronze sculpture opens at Waddington Galleries in November
2005
Major exhibition, ‘William Turnbull: Retrospective 1946–2003’, opens at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield in May
2006
Survey exhibition of sculpture opens at Tate Britain’s Duveen Galleries in June
2007
Exhibition of sculpture and paintings opens at Waddington Galleries in January
 
Lives and works in London

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All artworks © copyright 2014 William Turnbull

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