Master of the Universe signed, inscribed and dated 'E PAOLOZZI A/C 1999' (on the base) bronze with a brown patina 40.5 cm. (16 in.) long (including base)
PROVENANCE: Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 2000
In 1987 Paolozzi began work on what would become a series of three compositions based closely on the 1795 print with watercolour Newton by William Blake (Tate Gallery, London). The first of these was a small study of Newton, which only ever reached fruition as a plaster version, the second entitled Newton Figure (Tate Gallery, London), has Newton seated modeled in a neoclassical style. The third version, of which the present lot is an example, entitled Master of the Universe, has Newton composed in Paolozzi's signature mechanistic, cubist style. The artist expands on his dialogue with Blake's work and his motivation for reinterpreting it:
'The 1795 image of Sir Isaac Newton by William Blake in the Tate Gallery has fascinated me for many years. Blake shows Newton surrounded by the glories of nature but, oblivious to the beauty, concentrates on reducing the universe to mathematical dimensions. Blake was no admirer of Newton and meant this work to be a critical assessment of the scientist's preoccupations. The work says different things to me. Here we have the work of two British geniuses presenting to us simultaneously nature and science - welded, interconnecting, interdependent. The link is the classically beautiful body of Newton crouched in a position reminiscent of Rodin's Thinker. Newton sits on nature, using it as a base for his work. His back is bent in work, not submission, and his figure echoes the shape of rock and coral. He is part of nature' (Robin Spencer (ed.), Eduardo Paolozzi Writings and Interviews, Oxford, 2000, p.322).
One of Paolozzi's most iconic motifs, Master of the Universe, exists in a number of variants. Most notable are the monumental variations, one of which sit in the forecourt of the British Library London (as Newton), in the grounds of the Dean Gallery Edinburgh (as Master of the Universe), and within the Kowloon Park, Hong Kong (as The Concept of Newton).