George Fullard: Sculpture and Survival
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