Robert Adams

Regarded as one of the leading pioneers of modern British sculpture, described as ‘the neglected genius of post-war British sculpture’, Robert Adams is not widely known outside of artistic circles. Born in October 1917, Adams attended the village school in Hardingstone, Northamptonshire, where he lived until 1951. After leaving school at age 14, the soon to be artist worked several manual jobs, such as a van-boy for a printing company and after for an agricultural engineering company called Cooch & Sons. Here he would learn the skills in metal working that would be used in his sculptures. From 1937 onwards to 1946, Adams attended evening classes part-time in life drawing and painting at the Northampton School of Art.

When WWII came around, the artist stepped forward as a conscientious objector, however proceeded to join the Civil Defence as a fire warden. During this period and just before, some of Adam’s first sculptures were displayed in London as part of group shows for artists working for the Civil Defence. Fourteen of his early oil paintings were shown in the Northampton Public Library in 1946, and his first official one-man exhibition was at Gimpel Fils Gallery between 1947 and 1948.

After the war finished, he moved to London, where he taught at the Central School of Arts and Crafts from 1949. Here, he met several other artists, including Adrian Heath, Victor Pasmore and Mary & Kenneth Martin, who were pursuing the development of Constructivist ideas within the UK. Many of these artists he exhibited with, however began to dismiss their commitment to science and mathematics, instead opting for the link towards architecture. In November 2007, he was included in Osborne Samuel’s highly acclaimed Constructivist exhibition Towards a Rational Aesthetic.

In 1952 and again in 1962, Adams exhibited at the Venice Biennale, where he represented Britain in a retrospective occupying two galleries. Some of his works have been collected by the Tate Britain, as well worldwide in Rome, New York, and Turin. Surprisingly, he is virtually unknown in his hometown. Many of his larger scale works can be seen across London alone, including at Heathrow Airport and Shell Mex House.

His sculptures are what grew his relevance as an artist within the 20th Century, with his work evolving into pure abstract, asymmetric forms. His choice of metal as well as the forms themselves focus on space and light. It was at the end of the 1940s the artist began working in metal, using sheets and rods to construct intricate shapes that welded together. Towards the end of his life, Robert Adams almost exclusively worked in bronze casts.

The artist passed away in 1984, however his art is still visible in several public and private collections.

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