Butler, Rosemary (12 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)
Large painted bronzes. Decided Susse would cast the figures into bronze. Some were sent and they took one to Paris in back of car - "bottoms up". On return, they saw the heaviness and weight of them - gross effect. Knew he'd done right thing to paint them. Painted them all back in studio - massive figures. Bases - cellulose car paint - lots of coats and rubbing down with wet/dry paint. Final coat of paint - then mixed bucket of reddish poster-colour with detergent and threw it over, then white, fixative. Description of lengthy processes. Bases. Stripes relate to painting by Cranach, a favourite of Reg's. Overall effect - tonal - nothing stood out. Broke up solidity of base but in subtle way. Each of 3 girls that lie on bases - come to fine point - very finely balanced. Figures, base separate. Pierre Matisse exhibition only showing of the large painted bronzes - in 1973 - apart from one Bending Girl in Japan. Lord Snowdon did photos for Pierre Matisse catalogue. Reg never showed them in London. Erica Brausen gave up her gallery around 1968. Matisse never sold any of Reg's painted bronzes - Matisse bought them. When Matisse died one item in Freitas Gallery. They were shown a few years ago in New York. 1973 show depressed Reg a bit as little interest in them - although Matisse had bought them all anyway. From 1973 onwards, Reg made small figures. Assembled from assortment of legs, arms, heads. Fascinated by Japan - Reg had been in 1966. Torsos have screws. Legs manipulated and moved around. All different - all assembled parts. Rosemary worked on all these. Feet interesting - Reg always had to have big toe longer than the second toe - spent days perfecting toes. Hands equally specific - Reg always did heads. Had box of heads, box of ears. Worked on these small figures until he died. Placed them on real cushions this time. May 1977, Reg became ill. Treyarnon Bay. Returned to Ash in one day. Harefield Hospital day before he died. Test-drive in cars. Following morning, Reg had died overnight in bed. After Reg's death, studio full of sculpture. A gallery in Venezuela had bought a small painted bronze and sold it to Museum of Modern Art in Caracas. Rosemary got an order for a complete set of small painted bronzes - so she did them a full set. She has one set - of 6 - and Venezuela has a set of 6. In total, he only made 5 different large painted bronze sculptures and 6 small ones. (All illustrated in Tate catalogue.) Reg's hand-made camera with high-quality lens. Developed own film. Perfectionism. Made own lathe. Also made FM radio at time of Suez. Made short-wave radios too. After he died, everything he had done in house and so no-one understood what had been done - central-heating system. He made a television - first to have TV in Herts. Made kites. Used anything available to make things - nothing was precious.
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.