Anthony Caro encountered modernism when working as an assistant to Henry Moore in the 1950s. After being introduced to the American sculptor David Smith in the early 1960s, he abandoned his earlier figurative work and started constructing sculptures by welding or bolting together pieces of steel such as I-beams, steel plates and meshes. Twenty Four Hours (1960), in Tate Britain since 1975, is one of his earliest abstract sculptures in painted steel. Often the finished piece was then painted in a bold flat colour.
Caro found international success in the late 1950s. He is often credited with the significant innovation of removing the sculpture from its plinth, although Smith and Brâncuși had both previously taken steps in the same direction. Caro’s sculptures are usually self-supporting and sit directly on the floor. In doing so, they remove a barrier between the work and the viewer, who is invited to approach and interact with the sculpture from all sides.
In 1982 Caro was trying to organise an exhibition of British abstract art in South African townships when he met Robert Loder. In 1981, when staying in New York State, the pair developed the idea of running workshops for professional artists, which became the Triangle Arts Trust. They held the first Triangle workshop in 1982 for thirty sculptors and painters from the US, the UK and Canada at Pine Plains, New York.
In the 1980s Caro’s work changed direction with the introduction of more literal elements, with a series of figures drawn from classical Greece. After visiting Greece in 1985, and closely studying classical friezes, he embarked on a series of large-scale narrative works, including After Olympia, a panorama more than 23 metres (75 ft) long, inspired by the temple to Zeus at Olympia. Latterly he has attempted large scale installation pieces, one of which, Sea Music, stands on the quay at Poole, Dorset.
In the early 2000s, his work featured nearly life-size equestrian figures built from fragments of wood and terra cotta on gymnast’s vaulting horses. In 2008, Caro opened his “Chapel of Light” installation in the Saint Jean-Baptiste Church of Bourbourg (France), and exhibited four figurative head sculptures at the National Portrait Gallery, London. In 2011 the Metropolitan Museum of Art installed five works by Caro on their rooftop. As of 2012, Caro was working on an immense, multipart sculpture that would occupy three blocks of Midtown Park Avenue.