Thursday, 16 February 2017

Henry Moore; Sculpting from Nature at The Lightbox, Woking.

Our Valentines Day Day Out continued when we went down a floor at The Lightbox, Woking to take a look at 'Henry Moore: Sculpting from Nature'.

I have to admit that this one was going to have to work hard to win me over - Henry Moore has never been a favourite of mine.

On the other hand I have always seen his rival Barbara Hepworth as the greatest British artist of the 20th century.

The relationship between the two artists is a fairly simple one; although Moore was about five years older, the First World War interrupted his studies.

So both ended up at the same art school in Leeds, both won scholarships to travel around Italy learning about classical sculpture, both were pioneers of 1930's Modernism.

Except Moore happened to be a man while Hepworth was a women.

So, in the Post war boom when public institutions found themselves with the money to rebuild they often commissioned public art as well.

Moore got the lions share of those lucrative public commissions and responded by producing a large series of massive and imposing bronze figures - including one at the entrance of Charing Cross Hospital.

And while Barbara Hepworth was almost as famous she isn't represented in the same way - her sculptures are often more intimate as a result.

More controversially, it was Hepworth who was the first to explore spaces in sculpture....if you like she was the first to put holes in her works, something that Moore adopted after she did.

So in many ways, Hepworth was the real pioneer but missed out on the fame and fortune that came after the war.

However, as you can see, it was a very popular outing on a cold Tuesday.

Most of the works came direct from The Henry Moore Foundation and I was impressed by the cabinet of 'maquettes', the models that sculptors make before their works are scaled up to full size.

Here on the far left you can see a flint 'found object', next on its right is a small clay figure inspired from it followed on the right by the finished model;

Just the same here are three stages in the development of a sculpture;

Most remarkable of all, on the left an animal bone, next to it are the two figures in clay inspired by it and then the finished article on the right.

This model is typical of his many 'reclining figures;

The walls were lined by series of drawings - in this case of ideas for 'Madonna and Child' works;

Here a small scale version of the finished article;

There's no mistaking this wooden 'reclining figure', although the finished article would be four or five times bigger and made of dark, weathered bronze.

I'm not so familiar with this as a Moore;

Even less so with the front view;

But I rather liked it. 

Anyway, I came away with a much better idea of how he worked and what he was trying to do. And just as Barbara Hepworth's abstracts are all, in fact, landscapes of one kind or another, so nearly all of Henry Moore's are human forms.

I still prefer Hepworth!

The exhibition runs until 7th May, entrance is with a £5 annual pass which gives entrance to everything at The Lightbox.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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