Skip to content

Update from the Gallery regarding COVID-19

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is open. We are observing strict physical distancing and hygiene measures to protect the health of visitors and staff and minimise the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Read the latest visit information




Australian art

View More:


No. 39 Scherzo



Robert Klippel

Australia, United States of America

19 Jun 1920 - 19 Jun 2001


Between 1947 and 1948 Robert Klippel, travelled to London where he completed a series of unique carvings that represent both a re-phrasing and radical departure from his earlier Sydney sculpture. In his aim to develop a new abstracted sculptural language, Klippel embarked on an exhaustive investigation of forms and shapes, and examined how their relationship may be expressed in object form. In his intense self-directed study, Klippel frequented the Natural History and Science Museum, as well as art museums and public gardens, filling notebooks with a vast constellation of the shapes he examined. He developed these into the vital language of forms that he used as the basis for his sculptures.

Klippel was equally enchanted by the world of machines; the minutiae of technology, and the cellular organisms of marine and plant life and sought to establish the correspondences between the two: “to seek the inter-relationship between the cogwheel and the bud”. In doing so he embarked on a series of sculptures that embodied essential forms and implied energies that he saw as defining qualities of the 20th century.

Scherzo is one of Klippel’s spectacular London carvings where internal structure is envisaged in strange and complex external form. Klippel was receptive to the Surrealist currents of art in London. Their works reinforced his aim to visualise non-rational energies through biomorphic forms. In Scherzo he developed these ideas into a sculptural tower built on organic-mechanical integrations and notions of natural energies that results in an intricate statement of growth.

Klippel wrote of this work in June 1948 “….have also been working on the ebony carving. The soft round shapes with geometrical engraved shapes, fairly hard in feeling. The Shapes have great variety of proportion, using the point motif. I could dissect each one and it would be a simple carving itself – in a way like a jigsaw puzzle”




Media category


Materials used

ebony, carved


47.2 x 8.5 x 4.0 cm

Signature & date

Inscribed: RK 48/39


Barbara Tribe Bequest Fund 2016


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Robert Klippel

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

  • Robert Klippel, TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville, 23 Nov 2019–16 Feb 2020

Referenced in 4 publications


Deborah Edwards and Steven Miller, Australian Collection Focus: James Gleeson & Robert Klippel Madame Sophie Sesostoris (a pre-raphaelite satire) 1947-48, Sydney, 1998, n.p. (illus).

Deborah Edwards, Robert Klippel, Sydney, 2002, 45, 246 (illus.).

Deborah Edwards (Curator), Natalie Wilson (Assistant Curator) and Eric Riddler (Compilator), Robert Klippel: Catalogue raisonné of sculpture, Sydney, 2002. CD-ROM. No. 39 (illus.)

James Gleeson, Robert Klippel, Kensington, 1983, 54, 63, 86, 463 (illus. pl. 47).