Cobbold & Judd

Modern & Contemporary Art

Robert Carruthers

1925-2009

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Robert Carruthers enjoyed a distinguished 60 year career as a sculptor and teacher.

Born in Cumbria in 1925, Carruthers travelled to Alexandria in Egypt in 1945, where a lecture on classical Greek art fired his imagination and proved to be the first step to his artistic life.
In 1947 he enrolled at Cheltenham College of Art, followed by the Royal College of Art in 1950. The professor of Sculpture there was John Skeaping RA, who became a great friend and an important influence on his work.

While still a student Carruthers was awarded a major travelling scholarship which he spent in Italy and Greece studying classical sculpture. Returning to England he was offered a teaching post at the Royal College, where he worked with Jacob Epstein. He had a gift for the direct carving of human and animal forms in stone and wood. His forceful modelling of the human figure was partly inspired by Rodin. His success as a teacher came from an encyclopaedic knowledge of his subject and to his being an exceptional and inspirational communicator at all levels.

His first exhibition was at the Leicester Gallery in 1957. This was followed over the next 50 years by a large number of exhibitions the most important of which were one man shows at MOMA Oxford in 1970, and the Serpentine in 1976.

Robert Carruthers statement about The Prodigal Son:

The background to my work on The Prodigal Son was formed during the 12 months of a travelling scholarship in 1953 when I travelled extensively in France, Italy and Greece studying sculpture, with a special interest in marble and marble quarrying.

Between periods of travel I worked in studios at the British School in Rome and the British School of Archaeology in Athens. I became interested in the icons, gods and heroes of these countries and the way in which these were used to reflect the condition and aspirations of its people and their lives.

On my return to England I began to work on a number of traditional subjects which had strong resonances for me, including The Prodigal Son. A subject for which I felt I had something original to say having found a composition that was interiorised, natural in its expression, and not rhetorical. This symbolised for me how hope and reconciliation can come of out despair and suffering.

In 1958 I worked on the figure over a period of months in the studios at the Royal College where I was teaching. The materials I used in the casting were ciment fondue mixed with marble dust and chippings over a coated mild steel armature.