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Major sculpture by Lynn Chadwick donated to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Lynn Chadwick (1914 – 2003), Cloaked Figure IX, 1978, cast 1989, bronze, 2/6, cast Burleighfield, Loudwater, England. MMFA, gift of the Peress family in honour of their parents, Simha and Maurice S. Peress. Photo MMFA, Denis Farley.

MONTREAL.- Adorning the entrance to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the magnificent sculpture Cloaked Figure IX by world-renowned British sculptor Lynn Chadwick (1914‑2003) has entered the Museum’s collection. This acquisition was made possible thanks to the generous gift of the Peress family in honour of their parents, Montrealers Simha and Maurice S. Peress.

“Fifteen years after his passing in 2003, what a joy and privilege it is to acquire a monumental work by the celebrated British sculptor Lynn Chadwick! Following the CIBC Bank’s exceptional donation of the Henry Moore sculpture Three Piece Reclining Figure No. 1 (1961-1962) in 2017, the MMFA has continued to embellish its public art spaces for the benefit of all Montrealers and its audiences. Collected [by museums] from the MoMA to the Beaubourg, Chadwick was an accomplished sculptor of outstanding ingenuity and technical virtuosity. A successor to Moore and Hepworth’s generation, he was a contemporary of César. He created mobiles… like Calder, another major figure to whom the Museum is paying tribute this fall. While famed art historian Herbert Read – of whom the Museum has a stunning portrait – described Chadwick’s art during the Cold War period as the ‘geometry of fear,’ the artist did not intellectualize his creations, as his would attest his widow to his abiding sense of humour. We are very grateful to Philippe Peress, who together with his family in Europe and the Americas, has embedded his native city of Montreal a little deeper in our hearts with this generous and symbolic gift,” says Nathalie Bondil, Director General and Chief Curator, MMFA.

“This donation is given in honour of my parents, Simha and Maurice S. Peress, and in gratitude to Canada, the country that welcomed my family with open arms in 1958. I hope this sculpture serves as a token of my appreciation and a source of joy and inspiration for others,” adds Philippe Peress, son of Simha and Maurice S. Peress.

Of the six existing editions of the original, the sculpture given to the MMFA is the only one in Canada. Other than the Museum, just three other Canadian institutions possess monumental sculptures by Chadwick: the Art Gallery of Hamilton, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and the Ontario College of Art and Design.

Lynn Chadwick
Born in London in 1914, the sculptor Lynn Chadwick began to experiment with the fine arts between the late 1940s and early 1950s, inspired by the mobile – a concept invented by American artist Alexander Calder.1

In 1952, this student of the school of modern art got his start at the Venice Biennale, representing the up‑and-coming generation of British artists. When invited to take part in the event four years later, he won the international sculpture award, ahead of Alberto Giacometti. As acclaim for Chadwick’s work spread internationally, he was commissioned to work on many large-scale works displayed in public spaces around the world.

His geometric style attests to a break with the artistic tradition of major British sculptors such as Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, who drew inspiration directly from nature. In building his sculptures, Chadwick welded together pieces of iron rather than carving his work from wood – an artistic process considered unconventional at the time.

While the geometry reflected throughout Chadwick’s artistic contribution breathed new life into British sculpture, it was often associated with the ravages of war. Despite the artist’s efforts to escape this label, his sculptures were commonly viewed as an expression of the fear and helplessness felt in times of armed conflict.

Chadwick was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1964, Officier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1985 and Commandeur of the Arts et des Lettres in 1993. His works are collected by major museums including the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), the Tate Gallery (London), the MoMA (New York), the Art Institute of Chicago and the Musée Rodin (Paris).

The large enigmatic figure in Cloaked Figure is the culmination of a series of small sculptures and mock-ups done in pairs and as lone pieces. It features elements that are emblematic of Chadwick’s polished style: geometric, gendered heads (pyramidal or diamond-shaped to represent femininity, rectangular for masculinity), and abstract monumental shapes. Designed in 1978, this work highlights the increasing prominence of clothing in the artist’s vocabulary, first evoked in his 1950s sculptures (e.g. in the series “Teddy Boy and Girl”). He went on to design more dramatic apparel, from skirts and tunics to pointed shirt collars and, finally, the voluminous cape of the 1970s. Often giving the impression of being animated by an invisible wind, the latter allowed the artist to integrate large curves into angular works.

In Cloaked Figure IX, the cape of heavy, elegant folds appears almost completely immobile, opening slightly at the front to reveal the right leg. The monumental figure glides toward us, at once static and living. The fluidity of the cape contrasts with the exactingly defined shapes, and together they form an original quality, transforming the figure into a powerful, dynamic character, somewhat enveloped in mystery.

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