210 x 210 x 250 cm
Edition of 1

The title of this work is taken from Balzac’s 1831 story The Unknown Masterpiece, later illustrated by Picasso and celebrated by Dore Ashton in her book A Fable of Modern Art. In the novel, the painter Frenhofer has for years been engaged in secret on a work which is eventually revealed to be a confusion of colour and line, with the model’s foot as the only recognisable element. The story is a prophetic description of the risks of public incomprehension and of doubt or self–deception on the part of the modern artist.

Tucker’s Frenhofer is, at first sight, a formless lump, suggestive of cloud or rock formations, which on closer inspection seems to resolve itself into a torso, either that of a pregnant woman or of a paunchy male like Rodin’s Balzac studies. The possibility of many images and the risk of none at all—of total chaos—is for Tucker a consequence of the art of modelling, with shape and surface generated by the contact of the hand with the soft material.

In the years preceding the production of this work, the process of modelling had become as much the subject of Tucker’s sculpture as it is the means. Gradually, he has sought a more explicit image of the body that is as much sensed internally as witnessed from the outside.

This work was previously on loan as part of the exhibition William Tucker - Sculptures at Skulpturenpark, Waldfrieden, Germany.


About The Artist

William Tucker's early sculptures were constructed out of steel and wood and were assembled and altered into abstract configurations in largely geometric form. Such compositions were later cast in plaster and concrete as he became concerned with weight and gravity and the potential defiance of these states, which became an increasingly important point of resistance in his work. In the early eighties Tucker moved his studio to upstate New York and started to work in plaster on a scale directly related to the human figure. Cast in bronze, these sculptures were shown with earlier steel and wood constructions. “I see the role of contemporary sculpture,” Tucker wrote in 1998, “as preserving and protecting the source of mystery, of the unknown, in public life”. Tucker continues to work in plaster or bronze at a variety of scales and with progressively more reference to the human body, both in image and handling of the material.

William Tucker

Born: 1935