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Heavy Insect
© William Turnbull. All rights reserved, DACS 2015

Reference URL

Heavy Insect 1949

Not on display

  • Scottish Art
Made whilst he was living in Paris, this is a significant example of Turnbull’s early sculpture. It is also an important example of British post-war sculpture. The composition of the piece, with vertical lines emanating from a horizontal base is representative of Turnbull’s work of the late 1940s and expresses his concern with exploring movement through stasis. The inspiration came from the skewed perspective of lying in the grass on a hot day and seeing insects from close up. The sculpture can be seen as reflecting Turnbull’s interest in the writings of Franz Kafka, particularly the character Gregor Samsa from ‘The Metamorphosis’, who turns into an insect. Turnbull’s interest in the process of something changing, or being on the verge of change, reveals his interest in Surrealism.

Glossary Open


The arrangement of different elements in a work of art.


The principle of representing depth on a flat surface so that items further away from the eye appear smaller and parallel lines appear to converge.


A literary and artistic movement founded by the poet André Breton in 1924. Many of the associated artists, such as Max Ernst and Jean Arp, had previously been involved with Dadaism. The movement sought to challenge conventions through the exploration of the subconscious mind, invoking the power of dreams and elements of chance. Cultural hierarchies were challenged by the combination of diverse elements in collages and sculptural assemblages. The movement is also notable for the collaborations between artists and writers evident in the Surrealists' many publications.

Composition, Perspective, Surrealism


  • Acc. No. GMA 4847
  • Medium Bronze
  • Size 52.00 x 84.50 x 22.20 cm
  • Credit Purchased with the Iain Paul Fund 2007