Hampstead art figures remember Sir Anthony Caro as ‘the father of British sculpture’

Sir Anthony Caro. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Sir Anthony Caro. Picture: Nigel Sutton. - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Leading art figures in Hampstead have paid tribute to world-renowned sculptor Sir Anthony Caro who died last week at the age of 89 after a sudden heart attack.

Isabel Langtry, principal of Hampstead School of Art, was taught by Sir Anthony as an art student and described him as “the father of British sculpture”.

Sir Anthony moved to Hampstead with his family in 1954 and worked from the garage of his Frognal home for 15 years before moving his studio to a former piano factory in Georgiana Street, Camden Town, where he continued to work until his death last Wednesday.

He was widely regarded as one of the greatest British sculptors of his generation having worked in the 1950s as an assistant to Henry Moore – who also made his home in Hampstead for a time – before gaining international recognition and becoming a titan of the art form in his own right.

Ms Langtry, who was taught by Sir Anthony during his time as a tutor at St Martin’s School of Art from 1953 to 1981, said: “I called him a sculpture panther because of the way he used to walk around his work. He used to crouch down, walking around the work and studying it.

“If you wanted a critique of your work, you wanted Tony Caro to come and look at it. I’m very proud to be part of the legacy Tony Caro left, the language he left behind. As a one-to-one tutor, he was incredible.

“I think of Donatello – the Renaissance Italian sculptor – Auguste Rodin (19th century French sculptor), Henry Moore and Tony Caro. He is the father of British sculpture.”

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Jenni Lomax, director of Camden Arts Centre, found great support from Sir Anthony and his wife, the painter Sheila Girling, after she took over at the centre in Arkwright Road, Hampstead.

She said: “They have always been supportive of the centre and proud of having an arts centre in the area and helped us raise money. You would always see Tony and Sheila out walking on the Heath. He was a very important figure locally.

“They loved being in Hampstead. He had a lovely exhibition at Kenwood House in 2004 and I remember him going to that and him loving the fact he had such a fabulous place on his doorstep that showed of his work.”

Sir Anthony was born in Surrey in 1924 and studied sculpture in London before going to work for Henry Moore.

He first came to prominence with a 1963 show at the Whitechapel Gallery and his distinctive work, often made of steel, has been on show at galleries including New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Tate Britain where his work, Early One Morning, is on display.

A major exhibition of his work is currently on display at The Museo Correr in Venice.

His many awards included the Praemium Imperiale for Sculpture, which he received in Tokyo in 1992, and the Lifetime Achievement Award for Sculpture in 1997.

He was knighted in 1987 and received the Order of Merit in May 2000.

In 1949, he married Sheila Girling and they had two sons, Tim and Paul, and three grandchildren Barnabas, Benjamin and Emma.