Born: March 8, 1924; Died: October 23, 2013.
SIR ANTHONY CARO, who has died aged 89, was one of the most outstanding and prominent sculptors of the last 50 years whose pioneering, abstract works in metal have been enormously influential around the world. An assistant to Henry Moore in the 1950s, he often worked in steel, but also used a range of other materials, such as bronze, silver, lead, wood and paper. He was also a teacher, working for 30 years at St Martin's School of Art in London, where his pupils included Gilbert and George.
Born in 1924 in New Malden, Surrey, the youngest of three children to Alfred Caro, a stockbroker, and his wife Mary, he was introduced to sculpture while still a schoolboy when he met Charles Wheeler, who was later president of the Royal Academy. The young Anthony spent his school holidays working in Wheeler's studio where he learned the basic techniques of sculpture.
At university he studied engineering rather than art, partly due to pressure from his father, but by the time he left Christ's College, Cambridge, he was ready to become a student of sculpture. The Second World War intervened first though and he joined the Fleet Air Arm as a sub-lieutenant and served there until the end of the war.
In 1946, aged 22, he was ready to begin his career in art. He studied first at Regent Street Polytechnic and then the Royal Academy Schools. It was during this period he tracked down Henry Moore and asked to be his assistant. Moore took him on and Caro worked at his studio part-time until the late 1950s.
His early work was heavily influenced by Moore but a trip to the US acted as something of a conversion for Sir Anthony. After encountering some of the new American art he returned to London and bought welding equipment and a supply of scrap metal and produced his first abstract steel sculpture Twenty Four Hours. This led to other works such as Midday in 1960, Bennington in 1964 and one of his most famous works, Early One Morning, which is on display at Tate Britain in London.
His big break was probably his exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in east London in 1963. Sir Anthony made the decision to display his works without a plinth, which at the time caused a stir. It was a radical departure from the way sculpture had been seen and paved the way for future developments in three-dimensional art.
While most famous for working with steel, he later branched out into using other materials and in the 1980s and 90s pioneered the idea of sculpitecture: sculptures which resembled small buildings and which the viewer can enter and climb through. Such works included Tower of Discovery and Tower Room.
His works were shown all over the world and his exhibitions included retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1975, the Trajan Markets, Rome, in 1992, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo in 1995, and three museums in Pas-de-Calais, France, in 2008, to accompany the opening of his Chapel of Light at Bourbourg.
Between 1953 and 1981, he taught at St Martin's School of Art in London and was therefore very influential on many artists who came after him, including Phillip King, Tony Cragg, Barry Flanagan, Richard Long and Gilbert & George.
Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate Museum in London, said Sir Anthony was one of the outstanding sculptors of the past 50 years alongside David Smith, Eduardo Chillida, Donald Judd and Richard Serra. "In the sixties he established a new language for sculpture in a series of elegant, arresting, abstract steel sculptures placed directly on the ground," said Serota. "His development of this vocabulary, building on the legacy of Picasso, but introducing brilliant colour and a refined use of shape and line, was enormously influential in Europe and America.
"Caro admired the sculpture of ancient cultures and Greece and from the eighties onwards produced a series of large scale abstract works that reflected a continuing interest in the human body, but also a growing fascination with architecture. He was a man of great humility and humanity whose abundant creativity, even as he approached the age of 90, was still evident in the most recent work shown in exhibitions in Venice and London earlier this year."
Sir Anthony was awarded many prizes, including the Praemium Imperiale for Sculpture in Tokyo in 1992. He was knighted in 1987 and received the Order of Merit in May 2000. A major exhibition of his work is currently on show at The Museo Correr in Venice. He married painter Sheila Girling in 1949 and they had two sons, Tim and Paul and three grandchildren Barnabas, Benjamin and Emma. They survive him.
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