bernard-meadows-cock-fountain-figure small

Art in Focus: Bernard Meadows, Cock (Fountain Figure), 1959

Bernard Meadows, alongside artists such as Lynn Chadwick and Reg Butler, was one of the outstanding generation of post-war British sculptors who took centre stage at the 1952 Venice Biennale. Meadows exhibited three bronze works in the British Pavilion in Venice – two crabs and a cock. These works – spiky and violent – were described by the art critic Herbert Read as part of ‘The Geometry of Fear’ – a phrase which came to be associated with their sculptures.

As well as the crab, Meadows’ work of the 1950s was primarily focused on birds, in particular the cockerel. The artist commented that ‘birds can express a whole range of tragic emotion, they have a vulnerability which makes it easy to use them as vehicles for people’.

In 1954 Meadows had been commissioned to create a new sculpture for a school by the Hertfordshire Director of Education. The result was a startling, double life size sculpture of a cockerel, more naturalistic in style than the present work. The success of this venture led Meadows to continue to investigate sculpting animals as vehicles for the human figure. Meadows said that his work was ‘all about the human condition. The crabs, and the birds, and the armed figures, the pointing figures, are all about fear … perhaps not fear, it’s vulnerability’.

Cock (Fountain Figure) is unique and was commissioned by Crown Woods School, Eltham in 1959, for the fountain in their grounds. For many years it was thought to have been destroyed, until it re-surfaced at auction and was purchased by The Ingram Collection.