Art Fund gives dramatic sculpture to Fitzwilliam Museum

  • 27 June 2006

The Art Fund has given the Fitzwilliam Museum a dramatic sculpture by William Turnbull, one of the country's most celebrated living artists, in honour of The Art Fund's former chairman Sir Nicholas Goodison.

Standing over 3m high, and displayed in the stunning new Courtyard area, Large Blade Venus (1990) is the first work by the internationally acclaimed painter and sculptor to enter the Museum’s collection.

The imposing bronze sculpture was acquired from the artist for £141,000 and is being donated to the Museum in honour of Sir Nicholas Goodison, who retired in 2002 after 17 years as chairman and 27 as a trustee of The Art Fund.

Sir Nicholas is a longstanding admirer of Turnbull’s work. He and his wife have been significant donors to the Fitzwilliam through The Art Fund, adding over 70 pieces of contemporary craft to the Museum’s collection, including works by Richard Slee, Philip Eglin, Jennifer Lee, Judy Trim, Edmund de Waal, Tessa Clegg, and Bruno Romanelli. A connoisseur and collector, Sir Nicholas is a former Chairman of the Courtauld Institute of Art and the Crafts Council.

William Turnbull is the son of a Scottish shipyard engineer. His work has been the subject of major exhibitions at the Tate Gallery, London, in 1973 and at the Serpentine Gallery, London in 1995-96, as well as at Yorkshire Sculpture Park last year.

Turnbull’s oeuvre represents a series of core ideas; concentrated into simple and direct forms expressed on a monumental scale, they possess a particular power and resonance. Large Blade Venus is the biggest sculpture in the Blade Venus series; balanced on its sharpest point, it exhibits a poised stillness. Its imposingly elegant form derives from Japanese Samurai swords and Chinese chopping knives, but also recalls natural objects such as leaves, as well as archaic figures of Venus.

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Look at other works acquired by the Fitzwilliam Museum with The Art Fund’s help

Fitzwilliam Museum

Pictured from left to right: Duncan Robinson, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Sir Nicholas Goodison, and David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund, standing in front of Turnbull's Large Blade Venus. © 2006 Michael Derringer.