Austin Wright (1911-1997): Retrospective, A Sculptor’s Drawings

24th June - 12th July

Upper Gallery

A rare opportunity to see important works on paper by Austin Wright, York’s internationally acclaimed sculptor.

Austin Wright grew up in Cardiff and trained to be a teacher. In 1939 he produced his first surviving wood-carving. After the war, he started teaching at York Art School, he widened his range of media to include stone, clay and lead.

In 1957, Austin won the purchase prize at the São Paulo Biennale, and from 1961 to 1964 he held the Gregory Fellowship in Sculpture at the University of Leeds. Here he was befriended by the Professor of Botany, Irene Manton, who stimulated his interested in plant forms and in the interior structure of plants. From this point on, two separate strands can be discerned in Wright’s work which was now, predominantly, in aluminium: sculpture inspired by plants, botanical electron micrographs and his beloved and inspirational garden. These works explore growth, movement and lightness.

In the chronology of British sculpture, Wright succeeded Moore and Hepworth. Such was his talent that he was asked to exhibit in the 1955 touring British Council Show ‘Young British Sculptors’ with Kenneth Armitage, Lynn Chadwick, Elizabeth Frink and Eduardo Paolozzi. A remarkable achievement for an artist who only took up sculpture fulltime at the age of 44, a year before being selected for the show.

The accurate linear quality of the drawing, Matisse with a brush, Picasso with a very sharp point. The graphic quality of the line. It’s knowing where to begin; where to do the middle; where to end. And in the movement from A to Z they were so sure of what they were looking at, so assured; the eye was so gifted, and the arm so responsive to the eye. It inspired my drawing.

– Austin Wright