Skip to main content

Jan Leja's Catalogue Entry For 3B Series 1

Bernard Schottlander

3B Series, No. 1

Rootes Hall courtyard (Red Square),

University of Warwick campus

Catalogue Entry


Bernard Schottlander’s 3B Series, No. 1 (Figs. 1 & 2) has featured at the University of Warwick in the outdoor courtyard surrounded by the Rootes residential buildings and social building since the sculpture was bought from the artist in 1968.1 The sculpture is a typical example of Schottlander’s large-scale, boldly coloured, and geometric style, and in the Rootes courtyard (also known as Red Square) it exhibits a strong aesthetic contrast to the architecture around it.

Although Schottlander’s work is displayed internationally in the public domain, his character remains obscure. This essay will investigate the sculptor’s life, describe his characteristic style and practice of sculpture, and examine how 3B Series, No. 1 at Warwick fits into his oeuvre.

The émigré designer and sculptor Bernard Schottlander (1924-1999) was born in Mainz, Germany.2 From a Jewish family, in 1939 he fled to England. At first, he worked as a welder and plater (starting in 1941 or 2), but he concurrently studied sculpture through evening classes at Leeds College of Art. After serving in the army (1944-47), Schottlander continued his education in sculpture at the Anglo-French Art Centre at St. John’s Wood, London (where he earned a Sculpture Grant, 1948-9) and in industrial design at the LCC Central School of Arts & Crafts (1949-51). In 1951 he began his own industrial design workshop, which proved successful among post-war architects and builders and the Council of Industrial Design (CoID).3 He became a professional sculptor full-time in 1963 and had his first solo show shortly after in 1964 at the Architectural Association in London. At St. Martin’s School of Art, he taught courses in sculpture and metalwork. His second solo show in London was in 1966 at the influential Hamilton Galleries, run by the dealer Annely Juda. While he participated in several group shows, he had only two other solo shows later in his career. Instead of producing work for sale at exhibitions, Schottlander became more involved in commissioned work, creating sculpture for public buildings despite an often antagonistic environment for architectural sculpture.4 His experiences in working as an industrial designer and in sculpting for architecture profoundly influenced his practice as a sculptor. How these experiences influenced Schottlander’s work will now be examined further.

As both an industrial designer and sculptor, the two professions were for Schottlander interconnected. As Victoria Worsley has demonstrated, Schottlander was concerned with similar formal problems in his sculptures and designs.5 His designs for lamps created sleek sculptural forms and customizable functionality, as Catherine Moriarty explains: “the lamps might be stood on, hung from or attached to any surface and were available in red, yellow, black, white, and grey.”6 The lamp designs consist of standard, pre-fabricated forms (the metal lamp shade and stand apparatus) that are arranged in a variety of orientations and painted in a range of solid colours, and this customizable and improvised character to Schottlander’s designs can also be found in his sculptures (on a much larger scale) such as 3B Series, No. 1.7

3B Series, No. 1 consists of several rectangular pillars, C-shaped cylinders, and hollow rings, all of which are constructed from steel and painted bright red.8 Painted steel was the material most commonly used by Schottlander, both in his sculptures and industrial designs. The paint gives the sculpture a standardized appearance by acting as a “unifying skin” placed over the separate forms (the paint also denies the original material’s character). This method of painting sculpture was also practiced by Anthony Caro and the New Generation sculptors, with whom Schottlander was acquainted from his teaching job at St. Martin’s School of Art.9 The pillars and rings are arranged in a manner that is seemingly improvised yet balanced. They appear directly on the ground, or to be hovering slightly above ground, without a plinth but the sculptural forms are circumscribed by a tan circle as part of the pattern of paving underneath.10 In Schottlander’s arrangement of forms, different levels are presented: one ring is down flat on the ground, another is upright on one end, and still another is precariously balanced horizontally at the top end of a vertical C-shaped cylinder. The sculpture appears monumental, solid, and immoveable, yet the inclusion of the balancing ring brings a sense of suspense to the piece, as if in a moment’s time the ring could drop from its perch. The sculpture is meant to be viewed in the round and from different levels (from the windows of the first-year study-rooms, for example).

3B Series, No. 1, like most of Schottlander’s sculptures, is a particularly strong work because of its interaction and contrast with the architecture of the Rootes buildings, particularly the façades of the First Hall (completed in 1966).11 The Rootes buildings were designed by Eugene Rosenberg (a founding member of the Yorke Rosenberg Mardall firm) in an uncompromising International Modern style. The buildings’ horizontal axes are strongly emphasized with alternating bands of glazing and white tiles. Rosenberg recognized the need for a “visual stimulus,” and in his work he was a strong advocate of the use of visual art in architecture. Though Schottlander’s 3B Series, No. 1 was not constructed with a specific location in mind, it was chosen by Rosenberg, who had full control over choice of artwork and its placement to best make an architectural statement.12 His choice of Schottlander’s geometric sculpture, when seen in front of his black and white and grid-like architecture, provides an excellent focal point of contrast with its bold colour and variety of forms in a seemingly haphazard, playful arrangement. Worsley posits another contrast that can be seen in contemporary photographs of the sculpture (Fig. 1). Here, the strongly implied three-dimensionality of the sculpture complements the apparent flatness of the architecture behind, which acts almost like a patterned, “structural wallpaper.”13

At the time of its installation, 3B Series, No. 1 was placed centrally in the students’ social and residential space on campus. It would have been seen daily by students living on campus, whether they were on their way to the nearby social building or to the library and academic buildings five minutes away along a long and straight concrete path. It is regrettable that as a result of the university campus’s expansion, the space behind the Rootes social building, where Schottlander’s sculpture is still located,14 is today hardly frequented by those other than nearby first-year residents. Richard Deacon’s steel sculpture titled Let’s Not Be Stupid (installed in 1991) is located above the bus stop in front of Rootes and the newer Student Union building and has arguably taken the new central location of the University of Warwick’s campus.

Schottlander’s 3B Series, No. 1 belongs to a large oeuvre. 3B Series, No. 1 is characteristic of the sculptor’ s abstract, geometric work during the 1960s. A variation of the sculpture, which is titled 3B Series, No. 2 (c.1968) and consists of a balanced circle on top of ribbon-like curving forms, no longer exists, but a maquette of the sculpture is held in the collection of Leeds City Art Gallery. Not all Schottlander’s work appears to be an assemblage of forms, and the angular, single-form work at Milton Keynes (also titled 3B Series, No. 2, 1968-70) serves as an example.15 It has been noted that in the 1970s Schottlander began experimenting with organic forms instead of geometric. A good example of organic forms in his work is his “South of the River” (c.1976), commissioned for the outside front façade of Becket House on Lambeth Palace Road in London (this office building was also designed by Eugene Rosenberg of Yorke Rosenberg Mardall).

Schottlander’s work is represented in the collections of the Arts Council of England and the City of Leicester Art Gallery. Besides 3B Series, No. 1, the University of Warwick’s art collection holds in its store two maquettes of Schottlander’s.16 One is of 3B Series, No. 1 while the other is of a sculpture titled Ziggurat, which consists of stacked cubes forming a three dimensional diamond. The artist’s public sculpture can be seen internationally, with works in Tübingen, Germany; Toronto, Canada; and Tel Aviv, Israel.17

Archival sources that record Schottlander’s life and work can be found at the University of Brighton (design archives) and the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds (sculpture archives). While the sculptor’s work has not yet been thoroughly studied, a recent exhibition on show in 2007-8 was organized by the curators of the aforementioned archives, and an accompanying catalogue was published.18

Schottlander was an internationally successful sculptor and designer in his lifetime, earning several commissions for the public realm, but while his work may be well-recognized, his person remains obscure. This essay has strived to do its part to reveal the latter for the better enjoyment of works like Warwick’s 3B Series, No. 1.

1 The sculpture was sold for £1,500 and purchased with money given by the Arts Council as part of its “ Works of Art for Public Buildings” scheme.

2 For an insightful biographical account of Schottlander’s life, see D. Buckman, “Obituary - Bernard Schottlander,” The Independent - London (14 October 1999). Also see the abbreviated C.V. in Bernard Schottlander: Sculpture, exh cat. (London, Hamilton Galleries, 1966); and C. Moriarty, V. Worsley, & J. Wood, Indoors and Out: The Sculpture and Design of Bernard Schottlander, exh cat. (Leeds, Henry Moore Institute, 2007).

3 Buckman offers an anecdote that illustrates well the unassuming presence of Schottlander’s designs:

A friend was strolling with him through the National Theatre when Schottlander indicated an ashtray with the casual comment: "I made that." He could have said the same of objects such as lights in schools and the metal news-stands from which evening papers were sold on London streets.

D. Buckman (1999).

4 See V. Worsley, “‘A Kind of Urban Furniture’: Bernard Schottlander’s Sculpture,” in C. Moriarty, V. Worsley, & J. Wood (2007), p. 12.

5 V. Worsley (2007), esp. p. 10.

6 C. Moriarty, “Bernard Schottlander’s industrial design as a system of appearances,” in C. Moriarty, V. Worsley, & J. Wood (2007), pp. 2-3.

7 V. Worsley (2007), p. 10; C. Moriarty (2007), pp. 5-7.

8 The sculpture measures approximately 2615 mm x 3470 mm x 5020 mm (height x width x depth).

9 V. Worsley (2007), p. 10.

10 The paving design described here was part of a new landscaping design scheme for the courtyard proposed in Autumn 2000 and carried out in Summer 2004. The new layout’s organic shape replaced the original rectilinear square, but the original’s checkerboard-patterned paving is still echoed in the new design. Despite the new design, Schottlander’s piece is still placed very near its original position.

11 Yorke Rosenberg Mardall, The Architecture of Yorke Rosenberg Mardall, 1944-1972 (London, Lund Humphries, 1972), pp. 54-9.

12 V. Worsley (2007), p. 12. Worsley notes that “visual stimulus” is a term used by A. Powers, In the Line of Development: F.R.S. Yorke, E. Rosenberg and C. S. Mardall to YRM, 1930-1992 (London, RIBA Heinz Gallery, 1992), p. 56.

13 V. Worsley (2007), p. 10.

14 See footnote 10.

15 See http://www.mkweb.co.uk/art/displayarticle.asp?id=294

16 These were acquired from Schottlander’s partner Sara Hicks in May 2000 after the artist’s death.

17 Schottlander’s commissioned sculpture at Tel Aviv University serves as a memorial to the Jewish athletes who were killed by terrorists during the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. Illustrated in V. Worsley (2007), p. 9.

18 The catalogue offers two compact yet insightful essays on Schottlander written by the curators. See C. Moriarty, V. Worsley, & J. Wood (2007).