A physical description of Paolozzi’s ‘Cyclops’

Paolozzi’s Cyclops (1957) is easily recognisable as a figure, albeit with no arms and with an oversized head. Made of highly textured cast bronze, there are fragments of objects – embedded? – into the surface and a what looks like a wheel in the centre of its head.

At around child height, it’s diminutive size is more friendly than imposing (I think the ‘real’ Cyclopses were giants?).  It’s not solid; holes in the skin of it mean you can see into, or through parts of it; it looks a bit broken or fragile. There are parts that look more bone or skeleton and parts that look like skin or shell.

I read it as a male creature; having no obvious breasts or hips and with the strongly vertical cast objects between its legs (this could just be me!).

Its legs end abruptly in a flat rectangular plate that provides it support. In this gallery it is shown on a plinth in the 1960s room as part of the ‘Walk through British Art’ display.

The Tate catalogue listing for the sculpture is:

A unique cast from a wax ‘collage’ built up from casts of various mechanical and other objects.

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