Anthony Caro dies at 89; sculptor devised ‘new language’ for medium

Sculptor Anthony Caro's work has been displayed in museums and exhibitions around the world, including the Museo Correr in Venice, New York's Museum of Modern Art and the Royal Academy of Arts in London, shown above in 2011.
(Matt Dunham, Associated Press)

British sculptor Anthony Caro, whose industrial yet playful metal creations helped abstract sculpture gain global acclaim, has died. He was 89.

A statement released Thursday in London on behalf of the artist’s family said Caro died after suffering a heart attack Wednesday.

Caro was one of Britain’s best-known artists, and his large, abstract steel sculptures stand in galleries, parks and museums around the world.

Tate Britain and New York’s Museum of Modern Art are among museums that have held retrospectives of his work.


Tate director Nicholas Serota called Caro “one of the outstanding sculptors of the past 50 years.”

Caro’s works were often made of steel — though he also used bronze, silver, wood and paper — and were made by welding together sheets, beams and other pieces of metal into bold, geometric shapes.

The sculptures were frequently painted bright red, yellow or green and placed directly on the ground rather than on pedestals, to have a greater impact on viewers.

“I was reacting against the Romantic, pastoral English tradition, which I felt had sort of run its course,” Caro said last year.


Serota said Caro “established a new language for sculpture.”

“His development of this vocabulary, building on the legacy of Picasso but introducing brilliant color and a refined use of shape and line, was enormously influential in Europe and America,” Serota said.

Caro also helped design London’s Millennium Bridge, an elegant pedestrian crossing over the River Thames that opened in 2000 — and was promptly closed because pedestrians found it wobbled alarmingly. Reopened two years later after engineering work, the “Wobbly Bridge” has become a much-loved landmark used by thousands of people each day to cross between St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tate Modern gallery.

Born near London on March 8, 1924, Caro earned an engineering degree from Cambridge University and served in the Royal Navy before studying sculpture at the Royal Academy Schools. In the 1950s he worked as an assistant to Henry Moore, considered by many the greatest 20th-century sculptor.


A breakthrough show at London’s Whitechapel Gallery in 1963 helped bring Caro, and his style of abstract sculpture, to global attention.

He taught for many years at St. Martin’s School of Art in London, influencing younger artists including Tony Cragg, Richard Long and Gilbert & George.

Caro worked until the end of his life, and last year had a major retrospective exhibition in the grounds of Chatsworth, an English country house. An exhibition of his work is now running at the Museo Correr in Venice.

Caro, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1987, is survived by his wife of 64 years, painter Sheila Girling, two sons and three grandchildren.