LONDON.- Born in Dundee in 1922, he began his career as an illustrator for DC Thomson, before joining the RoyalAir Force in 1941, serving as a pilot in the Second World War.
He returned to London in 1950, having his first major exhibition at the Hanover Gallery in 1952 and in the same year he participated in the seminal exhibition, New Aspects of British Sculpture, at the Venice Biennale, selected by Herbert Read. He was one of the protagonists in the influential Independent Group in the 1950s at the ICA, with Richard Hamilton, Eduardo Paolozzi, James Stirling and Colin St John Wilson, among others. Turnbull was one of the first artists to embrace American Abstract Expressionism, creating lasting relationships with Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman.
Over the last 60 years, he has exhibited extensively. Among his one-man exhibitions are the ICA, London (1957), Hayward Gallery, London (1968), a retrospective at Tate Gallery, London (1973), Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco (1988-9), Serpentine Gallery, London (1995-6), Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield (2005). Group shows include Symbol and Imagination 1951-1980, a survey of British sculpture at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1982, and Geometry of Fear: British Sculpture of the 1950s, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art 2011.
Turnbulls works are held in major public collections including Tate, National Galleries of Scotland,Leeds Museum and Galleries, The British Council and Arts Council and in leading American collections in Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, and New York.
The Chatsworth House Trust will present the major exhibition, William Turnbull at Chatsworth from 10 March 30 June next year.
Nicholas Serota, Director, Tate, said: "William Turnbull was an exceptional artist, unusually gifted both as a painter and a sculptor. Initially, his distinctive sculpture developed in response to his stay as a young man in post-war Paris, where he met Giacometti, Brancusi and Helion amongst many others. It matured through his admiration for the simple forms of ancient and eastern cultures and his abiding search for the essence in any object. In this he came close to the purity of Barnett Newman, or to his own contemporaries such as Ellsworth Kelly. However, his sculpture and his painting always had a humanist sensibility that identified it as profoundly European."
The artist leaves two sons Alex and Johnny.