Henry Moore sculpture is the star at new Tate show - Great Britain
By Nick Trend
Walking around the new Henry Moore exhibition at Tate Britain - the first major show dedicated to the artist for more than 20 years - I felt a strange desire to liberate the exhibits. Not to smuggle them home with me, you understand, but to take them out into the light, into the open air. As Moore himself once said: "I would rather have a piece of sculpture put in a landscape, almost any landscape, than in or on the most beautiful building I know."
That's not to say that the Tate exhibition isn't a fascinating account of his work - indeed, most of the pieces are on a much smaller scale than his better-known monumental figures and were clearly designed for an indoor setting. But you miss those extra dimensions, the effects of the changing light, the longer perspectives, the breathing space, the drama that a landscape lends to his monumental bronzes.
If you walk out into the grounds of the Henry Moore Foundation at Perry Green in Hertfordshire, a couple of fields away from the main sculpture garden running down from the modest pin-tiled farmhouse that was Moore's home for more than 40 years, you will see what I mean. On the near horizon is a bronze sculpture of a reclining figure. Her slightly twisting, sinuous form lies in dramatic relief against the sky. As you approach, her shape shifts - apertures close, emphases alter. Her form becomes more abstract, then more human. But the setting always determines the impact. If it is sunny, the bronze glows and the outline is intensified against the bright sky. If the clouds loom she becomes darker and she broods with them. Moore's words for the effect? "There is no background better than the sky."
The sculptor's interaction with the landscape worked in two ways: he was inspired both by the forms he found there and by the impact that the setting made on his work. Here are some of the best places in which to understand his inspiration and to see his work.
I know we seem to have a good amount of Henry Moore on SculptSite.com ... Blame me if you must, but I so enjoy his work. After all there is only one Henry Moore!
Below is a link to the Tate Britain site: Tate Britain
Below is a whole lot more about Henry Moore compiled by Nick Trend
Yorkshire and Derbyshire
Moore was brought up in the Yorkshire mining town of Castleford and his father was clearly a man of energy. He worked as a miner during the week, and at weekends the family would ramble over the moors and surrounding countryside. In later life Moore recalled these walks as being a formative influence on his imagination, citing the dramatic forms of Adel Crag near Leeds and the slag heaps themselves - Castleford's own mountains, he called them.
Perhaps too, he walked on the high moors of the Peak District, about 30 miles to the south-west of Castleford. He never cites them specifically, but the wind-blasted grit stone tors along the southern edge of Kinder Scout surely appealed to the young sculptor. The ridge takes the full force of the weather, and over millennia the tors have been split apart and the edges scoured into rounded forms. It's a natural sculpture garden extraordinarily reminiscent of some of Moore's work: several of the grit stone formations would serve well as reclining figures.
Moore's own work has also found a home in the area. In the Seventies, he became a founding patron of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield; the Henry Moore Foundation still lends key examples of his monumental work to be set in the 90 acres of undulating parkland. There are 11 of his sculptures here - the largest display of Moore bronzes in Europe - as well as a significant collection of work by Jacob Epstein.
Kinder Scout is accessed most easily from Edale in Derbyshire, where the ascent forms the beginning of the Pennine Way (nationaltrail.co.uk/PennineWay) It's a stiff walk to the summit at just over 2,000ft. For information contact the Peak District National Park (01629 816200; peakdistrict.gov.uk.) Adel Crag is in Adel Woods between Alwoodley and Adel on the northern outskirts of Leeds. Yorkshire Sculpture Park (01924 832631; ysp.co.uk) is at West Bretton, Wakefield, open daily 10am-5pm, admission free.
Moore's family moved here from Castleford in 1922 to try to escape the pollution and unhealthy atmosphere of the mining town. His sister, Mary, became the village school mistress in Wighton, just inland from Wells-next-the-Sea, and he often stayed with her in the holidays, chiselling away in the schoolhouse garden. Later, in the Thirties, he came back to Happisburgh, farther along the coast, for holidays with, among others, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson.
He was drawn by the gentle chalk downs that roll down to the marshes, the undulating dunes and swirling creeks of the coastline. But there was an appeal for him, too, in much smaller elements of the landscape: the silver grey flints that litter the ploughed fields and give character and texture to nearly all the walls and buildings. These strange, sometimes bulbous, sometimes fragmentary forms - occasionally pierced with a natural hole - had an immediate impact on his imagination, and he began to collect them and even try to adapt their shapes by chipping carefully at the edges.
But it was more than the landscape and the stones that inspired him here. In 1925, he wrote from Wighton, fantasising about marrying "one of those richly-formed, big-limbed, fresh-faced, full-blooded country wenches that I've seen about here". The prototypes, no doubt, of many of his full-bodied reclining figures and mothers with child.
A useful overview of accommodation and sights is available on the East of England Tourism website: visiteastofengland.com. You can also telephone on 01284 727470.
The Henry Moore Foundation, Perry Green
This is the best place I know in which to experience Moore's work in the open air. He moved into the 17th-century farmhouse, Hoglands, with his wife, Irina, in 1940 and lived here until his death in 1986. He worked in various outbuildings and eventually acquired 70 acres of pasture around the house, which is now an outdoor gallery of some of his most arresting monument bronzes. Wandering around the sloping fields allows you to see how the changing perspectives of distance, angle and light affect the works, how scale and shapes shift, how apertures become frames. Even the sheep that graze some of the pasture land where the bronzes are set seem to have a role. You can see why they so appealed to Moore - woolly, mobile, bleating, in contrast with the clear, immovable, silent lines of the sculpture.
Hoglands, with its book-lined sitting room, cramped study and modest dining room, and the studios - lined with plaster models, and collections of stones and bones whose shapes he admired - remain much as they were when Moore lived and worked here. The foundation's headquarters, also on the site, acts as a repository and study centre, and there is also a massive medieval timber-framed barn that Moore rescued from demolition on the nearby farm and rebuilt frame by frame on his land. It now houses temporary exhibitions.
The Henry Moore Foundation (01279 843333; www.henry-moore-fdn.co.uk), at Perry Green, near Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, is open Tues-Sun, 10am-5pm, from March 30 until August 30.
Admission: £25. Booking is essential because the foundation limits visitor numbers to avoid overcrowding in Moore's farmhouse and studios. The Henry Moore Institute in Leeds (0113 246 7467) is also part of the foundation and holds regular exhibitions of sculpture: open Mon to Sun 10am -5.30pm, Wed 10am-9pm.
In 1950, William Keswick, a wealthy financier, bought his first work by Moore, a strange, angular Standing Figure, which marked a radical departure from Moore's more flowing female forms, and he sent it up to his Scottish estate at Glenkiln near Dumfries. He set the seven-feet-high work on a natural rock in the middle of a grouse moor. Four years later, Moore visited and was delighted by the setting: "It's a most glorious place for it, very wild and surprisingly right for that particular piece." Over the next 10 years, Kewsick bought and sited three other works by Moore: the seated King and Queen, gazing inscrutably towards the English border from a rock outcrop above Glenkiln Loch; the totemic Glenkiln Cross, which was sited by Moore and Kewsick together on the same hilltop spot where they had spotted a shepherd watching over this flock; and Moore's first monumental two-piece reclining figure - a form that was probably influenced by his memories of the fragmented shapes of Adel Crag.
This is quite a remote area and you will need a car to visit. Moore's work is also on private land, though walkers have the right to explore the area. Park by the head of Glenkiln Reservoir and walk from there (Ordnance Survey Explorer map 21). Dumfries Tourist Information (01387 253862; www.visitdumfriesandgalloway.co.uk)
* Henry Moore, featuring more than 150 stone sculptures, wood carvings, bronzes and drawings, continues at Tate Britain (020 7887 8888; tate.org) until August 15, 10am-5.50pm daily, admission £12.50.
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