This is the exhibition that no one should miss, be it the sophisticated art lover or an uninitiated novice who is willing to discover that modernity in art can indeed be beautiful, poetical, thought provoking and challenging in the same time.
I have to admit to a certain amount of personal bias as a sculptor and an artist in my own right. Throughout my creative life I remember holding a deep admiration for this giant of 20-th century sculpture.
My first encounter with Henry Moore’s artistry goes back to teenage times. The iron curtain that had divided Europe into totally artificial camps has only just twitched following the rebellion in Poznan and subsequent Hungarian uprising of 1956. The “West” felt guilty for doing next to nothing in bringing help to the stranded millions of Eastern Europe. An intervention would have meant another global conflict and a nuclear at that. Instead, the USA and Great Britain embarked on a fruitful and much welcomed cultural campaign. One such an effort was a travelling art exhibition organised by the The Arts Council of Great Britain and brought to Poland in the late 50’s.
Henry Moore’s sculpture was included and was a fascinating feature together with others such as Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and a cross section of the post war British artists.
Needless to say, it made a huge impression on the Polish art scene and Polish sculptors in particular. It was largely due to Moore’s ability in engaging his art with the landscape. Traditionally, the out door sculpture was confined to commemorative monuments taking its inspiration in Italian and French 18 century followed by great public sculptures of August Rodin. Moore however, was first in placing his sculpture right in the middle of rural countryside. In part, it was his creative choice but it was also an instinctive response to the countryside were his post war studio is situated and remains there until today, long after his death, thought it is administered by the Henry Moore Foundation in Perry Green, Much Hadham, Hertfordshire. It was from that location that the photographs of Moore’s great new pieces were disseminated and appeared in the newspapers, art journals of scholarly books on modern art. However remote it seems, I as a young art student in Poland, together with my friends and I imagine countless other young sculptors throughout the world, we all were looking with fascination at the new concepts that Moore’s sculpture had introduced.
Moore was a modest and unassuming person. A Yorkshire man by birth, a Londoner as a mature student and a teacher, an official war artist famous for his “underground shelter” drawings, a promoter of modern art and its exponents, the list is long and gets longer with every turn of his life’s analyses. A notable two institutions formed by him survive until today. The Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, dedicated to modern art and education and The Henry Moore Foundation in Perry Green, charged with the preservation of his legacy and good name, his magical country studios and the family house, now a museum in which a visitor will discover not only countless examples of his work but also the flints, bones, art and random found objects that formed a core of his inspiration.
The exhibition in Tate Britain includes a cross section of his art. From early pieces inspired by Pre-Columbian art to which he held a life long admiration and art of ancient Greece that he found fascinating as a frequent visitor to the British Museum. There he would sketch and train his eye on pieces that were echoed in his later works above all in the sense of proportions, order or monumental scale. Tate show includes his world famous elm wood reclining figures, stone carvings, bronzes, printed artwork and drawings.
A strong recommendation to visit the gallery is an understatement.