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Reg Butler

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Reg Butler

by Ida Kar
quarter-plate film negative, 1954
Purchased, 1999
Photographs Collection
NPG x31621

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Ida Kar (1908-1974), Photographer. Artist associated with 1564 portraits, Sitter in 137 portraits.

This portraitback to top

The year this photograph was taken, Butler won the international competition for a sculpture of the Unknown Political Prisoner. In a letter to Kar, Butler wrote that the selected photographs were 'splendid,' apart from the rings under his eyes.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Freestone, Clare (appreciation) Wright, Karen (appreciation), Ida Kar Bohemian Photographer, 2011 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 10 March to 19 June 2011), p. 67 Read entry

    Although Butler trained as an architect, by 1937 his interests had turned to sculpture. His first solo show was in 1949 at the Hanover Gallery in London, and two years later he was awarded the Gregory Fellowship in sculpture at the University of Leeds. In 1951 he was commissioned to produce a work for the Festival of Britain and was appointed as a teacher at the Slade School of Fine Art. By this point Butler was considered one of Britain's leading sculptors, a central figure in the group that represented what Herbert Read termed the 'geometry of fear'. The high point of his career came in 1954, when he won a competition arranged by the Institute for Contemporary Arts to produce a sculpture of the Unknown Political Prisoner. Ida Kar photographed Butler in his Berkhamsted studio while he was working on Manipulator, one of his few sculptures to depict a male figure. During this period his work was typified by the use of forged and welded metals to produce brutal sculptures that were representative of post-war anxiety. In a letter to Kar, Butler wrote that the selected photographs were 'splendid', apart from the rings under his eyes.

Placesback to top

Events of 1954back to top

Current affairs

Roger Bannister runs the four-minute mile. Bannister was the first man to achieve the 'miracle mile', a feat that was thought by some to be impossible, beating his rival, the Australian John Landy, to the record. Bannister went on to a career as a distinguished neurologist.
Food rationing ends in Britain.

Art and science

J.R.R. Tolkien publishes the first two parts of the Lord of the Rings trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. Tolkien was an Oxford professor of Anglo-Saxon language and literature and drew on his scholarly interests in history, language and mythology to create the fictional land of Middle Earth where the books are set.
Williams Golding publishes, Lord of the Flies.

International

The South East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) is established in Bangkok. This international defence organisation was established as part of the 'containment' policy of limiting the influence of communism. SEATO was, however, found to be ineffective as the member organisations failed to agree on combined action; it was disbanded in 1977.

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