New Henry Moore exhibition at Perry Green
PUBLISHED: 14:50 10 August 2018
Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation
A new exhibition at Perry Green explores the work of sculptor Henry Moore through his carving, revealing how his revolutionary style developed in wood and stone
The 1920s were pivotal in the career of one of Britain’s greatest 20th century artists. Over a four-year period not only did Henry Moore complete a scholarship at the Royal College of Art, he was subsequently appointed instructor at its sculpture school. His next achievement, in the middle of the decade, was one that would come to symbolise his iconic style.
Woman with Upraised Arms resulted from the Yorkshire-born sculptor’s experimental and pioneering approach. Initial concerns that a void between the figure’s trunk and limbs might weaken the Hopton Wood stone proved unfounded. In addition, the hole offered a greater sense of three dimensionality. As a result, abstract spaces became an integral feature of Moore’s work, encouraging the onlooker to absorb the landscape, elements and space that enhance and interact with a subject.
Moore’s move in 1940 from London to the countryside in order to escape The Blitz resulted in Perry Green in East Hertfordshire becoming both home and a hub of creative activity.
As his career developed, he exhibited internationally and achieved success at the Venice Biennale. He produced numerous public commissions - his sculptures gathering worldwide acclaim.
Marking 120 years since the artist’s birth, Out of the Block: Henry Moore Carvings, brings together pieces in wood and stone from the Henry Moore Foundation collection at the 72 acre studio and gardens site which Henry and his wife Irina gradually acquired. In Sheep Field Barn sculptures span the artist’s career, demonstrating the range of materials and themes that occupied him throughout his life.
The first room traces his development from direct carving in his student days at his Hampstead studio to later ‘truth to material’ work in which natural properties of materials inform carvings. Three rows of black and white images have been selected from an archive numbering half a million photographs and are complemented by a trio of short films showing Moore at work.
In the upstairs gallery an early marble carving, Dog, reveals a cubist influence and contrasts with a neighbouring alabaster head, the curves and contours a predilection of future inspiration. Next to these early pieces, the milestone of Woman with Upraised Arms not only sets the scene for the abstract works, but show’s Moore’s characteristic dichotomy between the tension of the pose and the smooth surface of the limestone. Another intriguing piece in the room is Square Form. A mathematical impression emanates from this carving. Despite its title, the outside edges are curved but within the burgundy stone are straight lines, right angles and symbols.
Of course, Moore is best known for his monumental works and the downstairs gallery has the proportions to show off some memorable carvings.
Family and parenthood frequently influenced Moore’s subject matter and there is perhaps no more sensitive example than the rosa aurora marble, Mother and Child. The flesh-like qualities of the material and endearingly soft curves encapsulate the maternal bond.
In the post-war period the artist’s creativity evolved – the concept of an idea becoming as important as the method of creation. He was still committed to carving and particularly favoured elmwood for its bold, wide grain. One of the greatest sculptures in this exhibition, Reclining Figure, is Moore’s penultimate elmwood form, a large and ambitious creation which took five years to complete. Moore is not an artist to be pigeon-holed. Other carvings such as Broken Figure encapsulate space differently to his other works. The black marble is in two sections, placed slightly apart. The concept came from the accidental breaking of a maquette. And although many of the sculptures here, regardless of size, highlight a natural smoothness of material, Standing Girl, in contrast, is a textural work in which Moore invites the viewer to inspect the chisel marks of its creation.
That he favoured rudimentary titles for his works suggests a determination to avoid guiding the viewer. Having invested so much emotion and reflection into his pieces, he was clearly keen for others to do the same.
Every material, Moore declared, has its own individual qualities, and the job of an artist is to create an active relationship with that material. Out of the Block is an invitation to explore that connection and, in so doing, learn about a man who remains one of the world’s most influential artists.
Out of the Block: Henry Moore Carvings is on until October 28 at Henry Moore Studios and Gardens, Perry Green, SG10 6EE. For tickets and opening times, see henry-moore.org