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The British Pavilion, XXVI Biennale, Venice, 1952

The Library’s holdings of exhibition catalogues includes a rare copy of the brochure published by the British Council for the 1952 Venice Biennale.

In the short catalogue text, Herbert Read (1893-1968) uses the term ‘geometry of fear’ to describe the collective anxieties of the post-war period. The phrase subsequently became associated with the work of the artists in the exhibition and has since been used to describe a 'school' of sculpture.

The exhibition New Aspects of British Sculpture, held alongside shows by Graham Sutherland (1903-80) and Edward Wadsworth (1889-1949), was commissioned by Herbert Read for the British Pavilion in 1952. Eight sculptors, Robert Adams 1917-84), Kenneth Armitage (1916-2002), Reg Butler (1913-81), Lynn Chadwick (1914-2003), Geoffrey Clarke (1924-2014), Bernard Meadows (1915-2005), Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005) and William Turnbull (1922-2012) were brought together to represent a regeneration of British art after the Second World War. With Henry Moore (1898-1986) as mentor, the group was presented as a younger generation of sculptors who worked with forged and welded iron to produce spiky, linear forms. 

The exhibition launched the careers of several sculptors who went on to have international success. Chadwick and Armitage won two of the most prestigious sculpture awards at the Venice Biennale in 1956 and 1958 respectively. They recall their experience of these exhibitions  in recordings made for the British Library’s National Life Stories: Artists’ Lives project. Extracts are currently available to listen to on the sound pod in the foyer of the Henry Moore Institute.