Sir Anthony Alfred Caro is considered the most influential and prolific British sculptor of his generation and a key figure in the development of modernist sculpture since 1950. Caro earned a master’s degree in engineering at Cambridge University, studied sculpture at the Royal Academy Schools in London, then worked as assistant to Henry Moore in the early 1950s.
After his first visit to America in 1959, when he became acquainted with the work of painter Kenneth Noland and sculptor David Smith, he moved away from figurative art entirely. Caro came to public attention with an exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1963, where he exhibited large, abstract, steel sculptures brightly painted and standing directly on the ground, so that viewers could approach and interact with the works from all sides; this represented a radical departure from the way sculpture had been presented in the past and was described by the artist as an attempt “to make sculpture more real.”
Caro’s innovative work was complemented by his teaching at St. Martin’s School of Art in London from 1953 to 1981, where he influenced a younger generation of British abstract sculptors including Phillip King, Bruce McLean, Barry Flanagan, Richard Long, and Gilbert and George. Caro often works in steel, but also in a diverse range of other materials, including bronze, silver, lead, stoneware, wood, and paper.
One of the greatest sculptors of the late-20th century
Major exhibitions of his work have included retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1975), the Trajan Markets, Rome (1992), Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (1995), Tate Britain, London (marking his eightieth birthday in 2005), and three museums in Pas-de-Calais, France (2008), to accompany the opening of his Chapel of Light at Saint Jean-Baptiste Church in Bourbourg.
He has been awarded many prizes, including the Praemium Imperiale for Sculpture in Tokyo in 1992 and the Lifetime Achievement Award for Sculpture in 1997. He holds many honorary degrees from universities in the United Kingdom, United States, and Europe. He was knighted in 1987 and received the Order of Merit from the Queen in May 2000.
Caro was 89 when he died on 23 October 2013. He was lauded as “one of the greatest sculptors in the second half of the twentieth century” by Royal Academy of Arts chief executive and British cultural historian Charles Saumarez Smith.