Sculpture Journal

‘An insistence on freedom’: Siegfried Charoux’s Civilisation Cyclus

Sculpture Journal (2019), 28, (1), 123–138.

Abstract

Exploring the artistic legacy of the Austrian sculptor Siegfried Charoux RA, this article expands the existing scholarly narrative of Charoux’s sculptures beyond familiar works such as The Islanders (1951) and The Neighbours (1959) to appraise a series of figurative sculptures that Charoux realized in London during the period 1957–64, collectively entitled the Civilisation Cyclus. Twentieth-century constructs of ‘civilization’ and their association with the freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) were meaningful sources of inspiration given the diasporic displacement and privation that Charoux and his wife had suffered. As an émigré in London, the friendship and patronage of members of the English establishment including Lord David Astor, Sir Stafford Cripps and George Orwell located Charoux within a coterie of socially minded intellectuals. Moreover, the opportunity to exhibit his sculptures at the Royal Academy of Arts’ summer exhibitions quickened Charoux’s assimilation into English society. Evocative of G. K. Chesterton’s The Common Man (1950), Charoux’s Civilisation Cyclus presented a variety of post-war urban English characters, gendered as male. Through extensive archival research, nine figurative sculptures have been classified as belonging to the Civilisation Cyclus and a further three of similar theme and period have been proposed, bringing the total to twelve. Demonstrating greater artistic licence thorough an idiosyncratic style with an evident gritty, rough hewn and seemingly unfinished texture, Charoux’s work became resonant with a political freedom that the art critic David Sylvester described as ‘an aspiration for freedoms and singularity’. Consequently, the Civilisation Cyclus might be considered a celebration of civilian freedom and offers an innovative manifestation of ‘Englishness’ in sculpture practice during the 1950s and 1960s.

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Author details

Veasey, Melanie