William Turnbull, the artist who would never name-drop

William Turnbull, the artist who would never name-drop

Bill Turnbull in Paris, 1947 (courtesy Offer Waterman)

Sculptures and paintings by William Turnbull (1922-2012) as well as extracts from the artist’s sketchbooks, which have been recently discovered and catalogued, go on show this autumn at London’s Offer Waterman gallery (29 September-3 November). The artist’s son, Alex Turnbull, says that the show grew out of a two-year-long clearance of the house in Camden Square where his late father and mother, fellow artist Kim Lim, lived and worked. Discoveries were being made right up the final day. “We have all the tools and bits from the studio,” he says. The catalogue of William Turnbull: New Worlds, Words, Signs includes stories his father was too modest to tell about the two years he spent in Paris as a young artist in the late 1940s. He called on Brancusi, met Leger, went to Surrealist soirées and became a close friend of Alberto Giacometti. It also includes picturesque details of his father’s life in Montmartre. Living in a tiny, roof-top flat, Turnbull would smuggle bags of plaster past his landlady and make stick-like sculptures and mobiles in his room. After Turnbull’s first visit to New York a decade later he met and became pen pals with Mark Rothko and Philip Guston, among others. “He was very old school. That generation did not talk about what they did or who they met. It would have been seen as name dropping,” says Alex Turnbull, who co-directed a film about his father, About Time: William Turnbull (2011).

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