Butler, Rosemary (7 of 14). National Life Story Collection: Artists' Lives.
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Interviewee's home, Hertfordshire
Butler, Rosemary, 1930- (speaker, female)
Whiteley, Gillian (speaker, female)
Festival of Britain 1951. Following Hanover show in 1950, he was commissioned by Hugh Casson to do The Bird Cage. Currently on balcony at Festival of Hall. Approximately 15 feet. Reg made this at Hatfield, before The Oracle. The Oracle. Idea of bird and strange neck. Made it a sculpture yard, near de Havilland aircraft factories where they did daily test-flights with big jets. Rosemary in last year at Slade and became Reg's assistant. Made moulds for Oracle. Invented a bronze that need not be poured - 'shell- bronze' - from tin, copper and lead. These were cast in sticks and with a hot tool, oxyacetylene, you pasted it into the mould rather than having to pour hot metal. Metal with high melting point for the tool. Explains process of shell-bronze. Had to have dry baked moulds. Detailed description of method. All sections were welded together to form bronze shell. All legs and arms made with phosphor bronze. Patination important because shell bronze ended up quite grey. The Oracle was first shell bronze piece. Cheap way of producing bronze sculpture. Rosemary got post-graduate studentship at Slade and took studio at Harrow on the Hill. They built a brick kiln in cellar and Reg took all sculptures over from Hatfield and she cast them all for Reg's next exhibition at Hanover Gallery in 1954. Did 4 of each sculpture and sold them all. Rosemary cast all the work in shell-bronze. Strenuous task. Relationship between Rosemary and Reg developed at this time. Reg's drawings. Different, unrelated activity. 'Pink' drawings shown at Hanover show - mainly done in Cornwall. The Arundels in Treyarnon Bay. Camping holidays. Drawing tent. Peter Gregory joined them. 'Pink' drawings done in carbon pencil and then flooded page with carmine ink. These backed up second Hanover exhibition in 1954. Rosemary chose to do lithography in last year. Reg made a lithography press - Rosemary took a lithography stone from the Slade. Reg did lithographs too and included these in 1954 show. Typical of Reg to make his own press. Reg's perfectionist behaviour. Not till he did painted bronzes that he brought drawing and painting together. Never drew at same time as making sculpture. Reg did very little painting and never showed it. Gregory fellowship. Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). Work always retained armature, vestiges of legs. Tripod effect. Last bit of iron - elevated the sculpture. Gregory fellowship - used to go up to Leeds and have discussions with students. Busy time. 1953 - Reg's work in Curt Valentin show in New York. Arts Council bought work from Hanover show. Commissions. Gregory fellowship. ICA show in 1952 - Young Sculptors' show. 1952 - Venice Biennale. Very important exhibition - acclaimed as part of group. Rosemary doesn't remember much about it. He didn't go to venice. He knew all sculptors but not especially expected that artists went to the show. Biennale was then a different event. Curt Valentin. Thinks Henry Moore might have suggested he show Reg's work. Reg picked him up from airport - often Xmas Eve - and took him to Hatfield and studio. Valentin Gallery was then very prestigious.
Rosemary Butler is the wife of the late sculptor, Reg Butler (1913-1981). Over the course of this interview, she discusses Reg Butler's life and work.