The 1952 work was originally intended to grace the entrance hall of Hatfield Technical College, an institution that opened in 1953 designed largely to train mechanical and aeronautical engineers.
The college became Hatfield Polytechnic in 1969, which merged with the Hertfordshire College of Art and Design and eventually acquired university status in 1992.
Butler (1913-81) was a leading English sculptor of his day, with many of his works still held by Tate Britain in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Although inspired by the theme of flight, The Oracle is a striking mixture of the animal and the industrial, the prehistoric and the futuristic.
The celebrated art critic Lawrence Alloway described it as “an ambiguous and violent image, compounded of parts of a jet aircraft and organic forms which evoke a pterodactyl”.
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