Henry Moore at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park

I went on the OCA study visit to the Henry Moore exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The bulk of this exhibition was in the underground gallery where no photography was allowed, so this will be sparse on pictures unfortunately.

Texture is very important in his work and he often leaves the marks which show how he has arrived at the final form. Negative space is also very important in his work. He often has holes in his sculptures and it seems that the shapes of these spaces are as important as the sculpture itself.

As for inspiration, it is obvious that the shapes of bones are a prominent source for the shapes he uses. Researching this after the visit, I found that some of the development of bones into sculptures can be seen in his sketches – Ideas for Sculpture: Transformation of Bones 1932.

With the majority of his work, there is a real sense of mass. This influence is confirmed in something he wrote in the Architectural Association Journal in 1930:

“The sculpture which moves me most is full blooded and self-supporting … it is static and it is strong and vital, giving out something of the energy and power of great mountains”

Focussing in on a few of the sculptures on display:

Head of a Woman, 1926

The facial features of this sculpture are very flat on a rounded head. They are asymmetrical, yet still appear balanced. There are obvious Aztec influences.

It was interesting to read after the event that the expressionless features on his sculptures could be interpreted as death like, or having the symptoms of shell shock victims or masks used to cover facial wounds.

Reclining Figure, Bone 1974 (I can’t find a picture of this on the internet to link to)

Reminders of bone / driftwood / seascape / landscape elements with a sense of time / worn away. The sculpture is bottom heavy like many of Moore’s works. There is a strong, heavy pull to the ground in his work, a real sense of mass. The holes and lines in the travertine marble add to the time worn and bone like elements of this sculpture.

Mother and Child, 1978

By contrast with many of his works, this sculpture is smooth with no evidence of tool marks. It is made out of a stalactite and is a beautiful material. The only image I can find of this work is of a smaller maquette.

Two standing figures 1981

This sculpture is designed to be seen from the front rather than in the round, the rear of the sculpture is much less finished and has much less detail than the front. They are sentinel figures, designed to be read. The figures are ugly in contrast to other Moore sculptures. Miro inspired?

Head: Lines, 1955

This is the combining of drawing and sculpture, in the way that the thin lines contour around the shapes. It is a beautiful object, but you get a different view of it when you take the “head” title into account, at which point it becomes cyclopic and a bit disturbing.

The circular section implies more of a mechanical/non-organic influence (perfect circle), and also has a different sense of time about it (quicker to produce and not time worn like the other shapes).

Three Piece Reclining Figure No.1 1961-62

P1020690 P1020691

This is made up of very bone-like elements. The marks on it are all hard, chisel like marks, showing that it was carved rather than moulded.

Drawing/Prints

Moore’s shelter drawings are very evocative and depict the suffering of people sheltering in the tube stations very well. His use of small amounts of colour and wax crayon as a resist for watercolour wash is extremely effective.

His prints of Stonehenge (e.g. Stonehenge IV 1973 and Stonehenge XI 1973) were even more impressive for me. Depicted almost entirely in black, the lines used are very sculptural and the impression is very dark and brooding.

 

Overall, this is a very interesting exhibition. I hope to revisit it if possible, having now read more about his influences.

Sources:

Arts Council Collection. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://www.artscouncilcollection.org.uk>

Bridgeman Images. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://www.bridgemanimages.com>.

Getty Images. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://www.gettyimages.co.uk>.

Lewison, Jeremy. Henry Moore. Köln: Taschen, 2007. Print.

Mitchinson, David, and Henry Moore. Celebrating Moore: Works from the Collection of the Henry Moore Foundation. London: Lund Humphries, 2006. Print.

Mutual Art. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://www.mutualart.com>.

Stephens, Chris, and Richard Calvocoressi. Henry Moore. London: Tate, 2010. Print.

“Tate.” Tate. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://www.tate.org.uk/>.

The Henry Moore Foundation. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://www.henry-moore.org/>.

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