Anthony Caro, Veduggio Glimpse

Anthony Caro, Veduggio Glimpse, 1972-1973. Steel, 30 × 113-1/2 × 18 inches. Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art Anonymous Gift, 1986 (1986.440). Photo by Christina Murrey.

Press play to listen to the audio guide.

activity guides

audio transcript

Valerie Fletcher: The British sculptor, Anthony Caro is one of the most pivotal figures in the history of modern sculpture. His work is nearly always abstract. Only his earliest works in the 1950s have any figural references in them. He started out as a studio assistant to the great sculptor, Henry Moore, who worked in natural organic shapes, evoking things like rocks and clouds and human bodies. Caro, however, visited the United States in 1959 and there he saw abstract geometric sculptures of David Smith and he met a very influential critic named Clement Greenberg who was an advocate of abstraction in modern art.

Caro, when he returned to Britain, started making constructed steel sculptures. He soon became one of the most sophisticated and accomplished practitioners of geometric abstraction and he then became an influence on the next generation. He was for example a teacher of sculpture in London for many years and he came and taught in the U.S. at Bennington College in Vermont, where he influenced sculptors such as James Wolfe and Willard Boepple.

One of the reasons that Caro was so greatly admired is that while working in sheets of heavy industrial steel plate, he never made preliminary drawings. He never made preliminary models. He improvised. In other words, he used steel sheet as if it was light and easy to use as pieces of paper. He would cut and weld and bend using of course powerful tools in industrial technology, but he would improvise. He would take a sheet and cut it, cut another one and weld it together, and he would work quickly. In some cases, he could make a sculpture in a single day, although most took a little longer.

In late 1972 and early 1973, he was invited to work in Veduggio, Italy. Italy at that time had many small steel factories and they were going out of business rather rapidly in the late 60s and early 70s as steel manufacturing moved offshore to other countries. At the Veduggio Steel Factory, he had one of his assistants work with him and so he could work very quickly. He made a series of sculptures like this one called Veduggio Glimpse. You can see that the form is horizontal, it relates to the ground and yet it is lifted slightly off the ground. It has an upright backing to it, which is cut in a kind of rolling, curvilinear way. And some had suggested that this title, Veduggio Glimpse, might refer to seeing the landscape around Veduggio as he was coming and going from the factory where he was working. One of the most innovative things that Caro did is to suggest a sculpture and did not need to have any reference point at all. This piece being long and low lying is totally contradictory to the traditions of upright figural sculpture. When you look at this piece, it is simply the sheer beauty and sophistication of the small and large forms relating to each other.

Anthony Caro, Veduggio Glimpse, 1972-1973.

British, 1924-2013

Before being drafted into the British Navy during World War II, Anthony Caro had studied engineering at Cambridge University. After the war, instead of returning to Cambridge, he enrolled at the Royal Academy in London to study sculpture. Caro went on to work as a studio assistant to Henry Moore (1898–1986), who was then the most important and renowned sculptor in Great Britain.

In the late 1950s, Caro sculpted figures, but his first extended visit to the United States in 1959 prompted a radically new direction in his work. He met the powerful modernist critic Clement Greenberg (1909–1994) and several notable abstract artists, particularly the sculptor David Smith (1906–1965). Upon his return to London, Caro created his first welded and painted steel works. During the 1970s, however, he found himself becoming “too comfortable” with color, and he stopped using paint in order to focus on the composition of forms and space, elements that Greenberg also emphasized. Thereafter he preferred raw Cor-ten steel that he allowed to weather naturally outdoors.

Despite the weight and unwieldiness of industrially produced steel, Caro composed his works spontaneously, without preliminary drawings or models. In this sense, his sculptures are sometimes considered three-dimensional equivalents of gestural drawings. Caro used sheets of steel as if they were sheets of paper: cutting, tearing, and folding them like three-dimensional collages on a large scale.

In November 1972, and again in May and November 1973, Caro worked at the Rigamonte factory in Veduggio, Italy. He used steel remnants from the factory's scrap yard to assemble fourteen sculptures (as David Smith had famously done at another factory in Volta, Italy, in 1959). Despite the titular reference to the place at which it was made and the suggestion that the form resembles a landscape, Veduggio Glimpse is a purely abstract work intended to be appreciated for its visual qualities.

Anthony Caro, Veduggio Glimpse, 1972-1973. Photo by Mark Menjivar.
Anthony Caro, Veduggio Glimpse, 1972-1973. Photo by Christina Murrey.

Location: Pathway between GOL and SUT

GPS: 30.285453, -97.740814