Unseen Anthony Caro works on show in major Yorkshire retrospective

Four sites in Yorkshire will host the sculptor’s works, including the pieces he was making before his death in 2013, in event given added poignancy by the recent loss of his wife, the painter Sheila Girling

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The most extensive UK retrospective of sculpture and other work by the late Sir Anthony Caro, which his wife the artist Sheila Girling had been working on until her own death last month, will be held across the four sites of the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle this summer. The exhibition will include the last sculptures Caro was working on before his death in 2013, going on display for the first time in Britain.

“It seemed the time to celebrate every aspect of Tony’s work,” Peter Murray, founding director of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, said. “Sheila’s death was a great shock – she had been so involved in the planning and so knowledgeable about the work – but the family was adamant the project should go ahead.

Anthony Caro Promenade
Anthony Caro’s Promenade, 1996, in Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Photograph: Jonty Wilde/Barford Sculptures Ltd

 

“He was always immensely enthusiastic about her work, but it became clear working on the exhibition what a significant influence she had been on his – not just in his use of colour, which is widely acknowledged, but her judgment about his work, about scale, about materials, about what worked and what didn’t, was absolutely spot on.”

It was Girling who suggested that the 1962 steel sculpture Early One Morning would be better painted red rather than its original green: he agreed and the piece became one of his most famous early works.

Yorkshire, Girling had agreed, was the perfect place for a major retrospective of Caro’s work. “He wasn’t a Yorkshire man, but he was a great supporter of everything we were doing here, despite his initial reservations about showing his own work here,” Murray said.

Caro’s initial problem with the sculpture park was its sheer beauty– 500 acres of Georgian landscaped gardens and rolling green fields, sheep and cattle. “He liked to control every aspect of where his work was shown, and he realised he could not do that out of doors – but he came round to it.”

Month of May, 1963
Anthony Caro’s Month of May, 1963. Sheila Girling advised him on colours for his works. Photograph: Barford Sculptures Ltd

 

Caro in Yorkshire, a joint exhibition by the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the Hepworth Wakefield, the Henry Moore Institute and the Leeds Art Gallery – independent institutions that have come together as the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle – will include works from throughout the career of one of the best-loved and most admired British sculptors of the 20th century, which spanned six decades and continued to within weeks of his death. It will range from very early drawings from his days as a studio assistant to another giant of British sculpture, Henry Moore – some with scribbled corrections by Moore himself – to jewellery-sized wearable pieces and giant sculptures big enough for visitors to walk into, such as his 1983 wooden sculpture Child’s Tower Room.

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park will explore his relationship with painting, and the Hepworth Wakefield his lifelong interest in architecture – which he dubbed “sculpitecture”. This culminated in a work of art that millions walk across every year, the Millennium Bridge across the Thames in London, designed with the architect Lord Foster.

A major sculpture will be sited outside the Leeds Art Gallery throughout the summer, and the neighbouring Henry Moore Institute is organising an international conference on Caro’s work.