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Soukop, Willi (1907-1995)

A sculptor in his studio dated Oct 1976

Pencil and watercolour | 39.3 x 28.6 cm (sheet of paper) | RCIN 922910

A watercolour drawing of a sculptor – stylised in the manner of a Modernist sculpture – standing in his studio between a female bust on a tripod and a full-length figure that might be a life model or another sculpture. The scene is contained by simple striped borders on the left and above, and by a thin black rectangle below. Inscribed lower left: W.SOUKOUP 15. OCTOBER 1976.

Son of a Moravian shoemaker, Willi Soukop worked in an umbrella factory before being admitted to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. He was invited to England in 1934 to spend three months at the progressive educational community at Dartington Hall in Devon, but the political situation in Europe persuaded him to stay in England. After the Second World War he taught sculpture at a succession of London art schools, culminating in the post of Master of Sculpture at the Royal Academy Schools. His eclectic works were firmly in the tradition of British Modernism, blending influences from Jacob Epstein, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Hans Coper and others.

The drawing is a meditation on the nature of sculptural representation and its relationship to reality, a fundamental concern no doubt prompted by Soukop’s many years of teaching and his openness to the work of others.

Text adapted from Portrait of the Artist, London, 2016