At the heart of much of Paolozzi’s work lies a fascination with the connections between art and science and this is nowhere better illustrated than in his 12-foot bronze sculpture of 1995 which was unveiled in the courtyard of the new British Library at St Pancras in September 1997. That work was preceded by many small experimental models such as the one shown here. As Paolozzi well knew, William Blake’s famous colour print of 1795 was a satire: it mocks man’s desire to measure and rationalise by imagining Sir Isaac Newton trying to plot the immensity of the universe with a pair of compasses, while at the same time being blind to the beauties of nature. However, the sculptor saw his own work as celebrating ‘an exciting union of two British geniuses, simultaneously presenting nature and science, poetry, art and architecture - all welded, interconnected, interdependent’. He described his own Newton as ‘having a classically beautiful body ... [and sitting] on nature, using it as a base for his work ... his figure echoes the shape of rock and coral. He is part of nature.’ The architect of the new British Library, Colin St John Wilson, chose Paolozzi’s sculpture to embody the purpose of the library: the search for truth in both science and the humanities. Blake’s visionary image has thus become a national icon, though perhaps not in the way that he himself intended.
Bronze on wooden plinth
© The Paolozzi Foundation, Licensed by DACS 2020
Sir Eduardo Luigi Paolozzi CBE RA, 1924-2005