In memoriam: Sir Anthony Caro

Sir Anthony Caro, one of the greatest sculptors of his generation and a longstanding supporter of the Art Fund, has died at age 89.

Caro was one of the key figures in the development of modernist sculpture. He was born in New Malden, a suburb of London, and studied engineering at Cambridge University before joining the Royal Navy. In 1946, after returning from war, he began studying sculpture at Regent Street Polytechnic, continuing his studies at the Royal Academy Schools after graduating.

Early in his career he was employed as an assistant to Henry Moore, but abandoned figurative work in favour of abstraction after meeting the American sculptor David Smith. His works were typically constructed from prefabricated 'found' metal components, and often sat directly on the ground – his choice not to present his works on plinths was a radical break from tradition, and Caro is often credited with helping break down the barrier between sculpture and its audience.

His success spanned over half a century, from his breakthrough Whitechapel Gallery show in 1963 to an exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery in London that opened in June this year. Caro's achievements were recognised with a knighthood in 1987, and in 2000 he was awarded the Order of Merit. He had recently vowed never to retire, and he continued working up to his death.

Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, said: "I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of Sir Anthony Caro. From his time in Henry Moore’s studio and his groundbreaking sculpture of the 1960s, through to his later, more self-consciously monumental work, his art was bold, self-reliant and unfailingly powerful. It has been pivotal to the wider development of sculpture in this country. He will be rightly celebrated as one of the most important British artists of the 20th century."

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