Skeaping, John Rattenbury

(1901 - 1980)

Skeaping’s work is characterised by an economy of line and his ability to capture the essence of movement in his animal subjects.

He was born in South Woodford, Essex in 1901 and between 1917 and 1919, studied at Goldsmith's College, the Central School of Arts and Crafts  and later at the Royal Academy until 1920. In 1924 he won the British Prix de Rome, an award which came with a scholarship to the British School in Rome.

It was in Rome that Skeaping met sculptors Henry Moore and also Barbara Hepworth to whom he was briefly married. Returning to Britain, Skeaping was a member of the London Group from 1928 to 1934, and also joined the Seven and Five Society in 1932. He served with the Intelligence Service in World War II, and later travelled in Mexico and Ireland.

From 1948, he taught sculpture at the Royal College of Art and was professor of sculpture there from 1953 until ill health forced his retirement in 1959.

Skeaping lived for a while in Devon but finally settled in the Camargue, France in 1959, an area ideally suited to his love of art and horses. He remained there for the rest of his life.

He was elected A.R.A in 1951 and R.A. in 1959 having first exhibited there in 1922. Skeaping wrote several accomplished books on animal drawing and an autobiography, ‘Drawn from Life’ which was published in 1977.