About this artwork

During the Second World War Butler was a conscientious objector and worked as a village blacksmith. Afterwards, although he returned to his job as an architect, he spent more and more time on sculpture. In 1948 he made his first work in forged iron and the following year had his first exhibition. This work dates from the period when he was Gregory Fellow in sculpture at Leeds University, from 1950-3. It has been suggested that ‘Archaic Head II’ was inspired by nail-studded Nkisi figures from the Congo. One was exhibited in ‘40,000 Years of Modern Art’ at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, 1948, captioned “Carved figure used for causing harm by magical means”.

  • title:
    Archaic Head II
  • accession number:
    GMA 5029
  • artist:
  • gallery:
  • object type:
  • materials:
    Bronze
  • date created:
    1952
  • measurements:
    11.00 x 26.50 x 8.30 cm
  • credit line:
    Bequeathed by Mr Ken Powell 2006 [received 2008]
  • copyright:
    © ESTATE OF REG BUTLER

Reg Butler

Reg Butler

Reg Butler was born in Hertfordshire. Although he trained as an architect, he began making sculptures in 1944, while working as a blacksmith during the Second World War. In 1950 Butler abandoned a career in architecture and became the first Gregory Fellow in Sculpture at Leeds University. He also began teaching sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, continuing to work there until his death in 1981. Butler's reputation was secured in 1953, when his design for a 'Monument to the Unknown Political Prisoner' won an international competition, against entries from Alexander Calder, Naum Gabo and Barbara Hepworth among others.