Manipulator proves a record seller for Reg

A sculpture by the late Berkhamsted artist Reg Butler sold for a record amount at Sotheby's in London on Monday.

The sculpture, entitled Manipulator, was sold for 120,000, more than double the amount it was expected to fetch and almost double the existing world record for a Butler work.

Sotheby's expert, Sarah Thomas, said: "We sensed that it was going to sell very well because there was such tremendous interest beforehand in what is an important work."

The five feet ten inches high bronze sculpture, set on a concrete base produced in 1954 as an edition of six is now worth 1,714 an inch.

It is also the first time a Butler sculpture has fetched a six figure sum in sterling at auction.

At least three other versions of the sculpture are in America. Manipulator was bought by a mystery bidder, believed to be a collector, not a dealer.

A spokesman for auctioneers Sotheby's said: "Male figures are rare in Butler's oeuvre and when they do appear they are generally found to be holding or operating some kind of machinery.

Manipulator is one of Butler's earliest large-scale bronze sculptures and holds a network of rods whilst his head is thrown back.The figure is lifted off the ground on a grid similar to that which was to become a feature of his female figures during the decade."

Although he was born at Buntingford, on April 28, 1913, Butler spent much of his life living and working in Berkhamsted.

He lived at a house named Ash at Berkhamsted Place and his telephone number was Berkhamsted 2933 when the town's telephone numbers were still four digits.

He died in Berkhamsted at the age of 68 on October 23 1981.

He wed farmer's daughter Joan Child in 1938 but they had no children. But by lover Rosemary Young, also a sculptor, he had two daughters.

In his will Butler left just 33,954 but in 1981 that sum would have been more than enough to buy a decent house at Berkhamsted.

During the Second World War Reg Butler was a conscientious objector and worked as a blacksmith in Sussex. According to the Dictionary of National Biography: "He was interested in sculpture from 1937 onwards, initially being influenced by African primitive art and the work of Henry Moore."

In 1947 he became an assistant to Henry Moore who lived at Perry Green near Much Hadham.

The DNB says: "Butler was awarded the grand prix in an international competition for an intended monument entitled The Unknown Political Prisoner in 1953 for a sculpture to be placed on the Russian-German frontier in Berlin.

The sculpture was never built and the maquette was destroyed by a Hungarian refugee when it was exhibited at the Tate Gallery in London. Butler was able to make a second small model."

Some of Butler's sculpture is now at the Tate in London and at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The 120,000 paid for his sculpture, Manipulator at Sotheby's in London on Monday afternoon easily beat the world record for a Butler work which until Monday was 61,436 the sum paid at Sotheby's in New York on May 11 1988 for his sculpture Girl.

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