Artists Obituaries News United Kingdom

William Turnbull has died, aged 90

Influential British painter and sculptor was friends with Paolozzi and Rothko

William Turnbull

The post-war British artist William Turnbull, died on 15 November, aged 90.

Starting off as an illustrator for the Scottish publishers DC Thomson in Dundee, he moved to London in 1950 after serving as a pilot in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.

He was part of the Independent Group, based at the ICA in the 1950s, that also included Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi, and he was an early friend of the American Abstract Expressionists Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman.

“William Turnbull was an exceptional artist, unusually gifted both as a painter and a sculptor,” says Nicholas Serota, the director of Tate. “Initially, his distinctive sculpture developed in response to his stay as a young man in post-war Paris, where he met Giacometti, Brancusi and Helion amongst many others. It matured through his admiration for the simple forms of ancient and eastern cultures and his abiding search for the essence in any object. In this he came close to the purity of Barnett Newman, or to his own contemporaries such as Ellsworth Kelly. However, his sculpture and his painting always had a humanist sensibility that identified it as profoundly European."

Turnbull’s work will be shown at Chatsworth House next year (10 March-30 June).

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