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Peter King Sculptor:
Introduction

 

This website is devoted to the life and work of the 1950s British sculptor Peter King who died at the age of twenty-nine in 1957. His estate is represented by England & Co.

The research, database construction, and website implementation for this site was carried out by Dr Mike King, Peter King's son, as part of research activities supported by London Metropolitan University and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

King's untimely death meant that he has been largely omitted from the history of 1950s British art, but recent discoveries of missing works, diaries, photographic plates, and other memorabilia indicate the significance of his work for the period. He was undoubtedly a prolific artist whose exceptional talent was recognised by Henry Moore, who appointed him as his assistant along with other emerging sculptors such as Anthony Caro. King was part of a group of artists associated with Moore's studio, with the teaching team at St Martin's School of Art, with artists living at the Abbey Art Centre in London, and with Victor Musgrave's Gallery One in Soho. He received the Boise Travelling Scholarship and funding from the BFI for an animated film, and exhibited the film and his work across Europe before succumbing to blood-poisoning at the age of twenty-nine.

Picture: King at St Martin's School of Art in the 1950s

Copyright and Permitted Uses
The images and metadata presented in this collection may be used for private research and study purposes only. Enquiries regarding reproduction should be sent to this address: mike@jnani.org

Acknowledgements
Mike King would like to thank the Arts and Humanities Research Council, London Metropolitan University, the Visual Arts Data Service (VADS), the Henry Moore Institute, the Henry Moore Foundation, the Tate Gallery archive, and Dr Margaret Garlake for assistance of various kinds.

 
Cricital assessment by art historian Margaret Garlake

 
To encounter Peter King's work is to discover an artist who is, extraordinarily, all but unknown today despite having had a rich and copious production. Even a brief study of the work immediately available in London together with the records of pieces lost or not yet located and others recently discovered confirms that he was an artist with an unusually wide range of references, of imagination, of technical and material resources.

He made sculpture in wood, bronze, lead, cement, aluminium and silver as well as producing a film and a large number of drawings, monotypes and gouaches. Some of these are clearly related to specific pieces of sculpture while others are explorations of sculptural forms, occasional life drawings or fluent sketches made to feed the imagination. The imagery of the works on paper leaves no doubt that King was primarily a sculptor, one who was evidently fascinated by the possibilities of diverse techniques.


Given the early age at which he died it is not surprising that his work strikes the observer as still experimental, concerned with the same themes, forms and materials as many of his mentors and contemporaries. Though some of his most accomplished work was in lead, either intricate linear casts or even proto-action thrown pieces, his central theme was the human body. It appears, frenzied or still, as standing figures, mother-and-child groups, hybrid or masquerade figures; rendered in polished wood with fluid curves, in tough cement proclaiming its modernity and in the intricate chunky wood carvings that are King's signature pieces. That they contain echoes of art as varied as works by Henry Moore, Germaine Richier, Javanese shadow puppets and Cycladic marbles marks him as a man of the early post-war years whose work is profoundly eloquent of that period's doubts, fears and concern with humanity.