Ge­orge Fullard: Sculp­ture and Sur­vival

Country Life Every Week - - Books - An­drew Lam­birth

Michael Bird (Gallery Pan­golin, £45)

The sculp­tor Ge­orge Fullard (1923–73) has been left out of too many ac­counts of 20th-cen­tury Bri­tish art be­cause he re­fused to con­form to fash­ions and never fit­ted the kind of pi­geon­hole that art his­to­ri­ans pro­mote. he was the wild­card of Mod­ern Bri­tish sculp­ture, a true orig­i­nal, who died far too young, aged just 50.

Born in Sh­effield, Fullard stud­ied at the art school there, win­ning a schol­ar­ship to the Royal Col­lege of Art in Lon­don, but be­fore tak­ing up his RCA place, he en­listed in the Royal Ar­moured Corps in Au­gust 1942 and em­barked for North Africa the following April. A gun­ner-op­er­a­tor in a Sherman tank, Fullard was later se­verely in­jured at the bat­tle of Monte Cassino and lost the use of his left arm—po­ten­tially dis­as­trous for a young sculp­tor.

It may have been this that pro­pelled him away from carv­ing to­wards first mod­el­ling and, later, as­sem­blage, but it cer­tainly didn’t de­ter him from sculp­ture as a ca­reer and, by the mid 1950s, he was be­ing cham­pi­oned by the in­flu­en­tial critic John Berger as Bri­tain’s best young re­al­ist sculp­tor. No sooner did he achieve such an accolade than he be­gan to sub­vert and change his work, giv­ing up mod­el­ling in clay for large and lively as­sem­blages of sawn wood, mostly scav­enged lengths of mould­ing, fur­ni­ture pan­els and carved de­tails.

he was a witty and in­ven­tive draughts­man and brought to­gether his war ex­pe­ri­ences with rec­ol­lec­tions of child­hood in a pow­er­fully imag­i­na­tive way. A teach­ing col­league (Fullard was head of sculp­ture at Chelsea 1963–73) thought that, for Fullard, draw­ing was, in fact, a search for in­no­cence.

Cer­tainly, he be­lieved that a sculp­tor should trans­mit ‘the se­cret his­tory of our times’, mak­ing his work from what was around him and within him. If his sculp­ture some­times looks like a cross be­tween Pi­casso and Buster Keaton, he could also be called eng­land’s Gi­a­cometti.

Michael Bird’s vividly writ­ten mono­graph makes a con­vinc­ing case for look­ing again at this un­fairly marginalised tal­ent: now it’s time for a ma­jor mu­seum ret­ro­spec­tive.

Night Cross­ing (1966). In 1958, Fullard was hailed by John Berger in the New States­man as Bri­tain’s best young con­tem­po­rary sculp­tor

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