William Turnbull, the internationally renowned sculptor, painter and printmaker, was born in Dundee on the 11th January 1922. Having demonstrated an early passion for drawing, Turnbull left school at fifteen and got a job as an illustrator for the local periodical publishing house, DC Thompson, while studying art in the evenings. After serving as a pilot in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, he enrolled at the Slade School of Art and studied there from 1946 to 1948 before spending two years in Paris. While he was abroad, Turnbull met and was profoundly influenced by the artists Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957) and Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966). He visited America for the first time in 1957, and travelled to Japan, Cambodia, and Malaysia in 1962.
The first one-man show of his sculpture was held in 1950 at the Hanover Gallery; his paintings were exhibited there two years later. In 1952 he represented Britain at the Venice Biennale. He had a solo exhibition of sculpture and painting at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London in 1957 and took part in This is tomorrow exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London in 1956 and Situation at the RBA Galleries, London in 1960. In 1973 the Tate Gallery held a retrospective of his work and in 1995-6 the Serpentine held a major show of his work. From 1952-61 and 1964-72 he taught at the Central School of Art in London. Turnbull was married to the sculptor and printmaker Kim Lim, with whom he had two sons. He died in London on the 15th November 2012.
The work of William Turnbull is represented in the Government Art Collection; the National Galleries of Scotland; the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia; Cass Sculpture Foundation, Goodwood; the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago; Tate Gallery, London and the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Iran.