The Henry Moore exhibition at London’s Tate Britain offers not only a tantalising insight into the career of one of Britain’s best known sculptors through his iconic works in stone and bronze executed throughout his prolific career, but also displays a magnificent selection of works on paper, from colliery studies in northern England, to wartime works in the air raid shelters of London during the Blitz – from which Moore became an official war artist.
As one tours the exhibition one can not fail to see the obvious impact and influence of Japanese Netsuke, pre-Columbian and European Futurism movements on his work. Considering his earlier works, constructed during his younger, more impressionable years, one can see the colossal impact of surrealism, and especially of Picasso, particularly in the many elaborately elongated and multi-perforated representations of the reclining female form
From his wartime experiences during the London Blitz, of particular note is the tremendous and beautifully executed work entitled “Tube Shelter Perspective: The Liverpool Street Extension (1941),” which demonstrates a marvellous use of tonal quality and what one must assume is a deliberate use of light and shadow through the use of pencil, ink and watercolour wash over wax crayon to emphasise the feeling of gloom, isolation and probable despair, apparent in the eyes of the civilian victims of the war.
Moore remains one of the most widely recognised and appreciated of modern artists, typically associated within popular culture as the creator of the easy-going form of gently rounded, abstracted sculpture – a celebration of materiality through a mother and child composition, or the theme of the reclining, typically female figure and cited within a beautiful landscape or park.
The focus of the exhibition however points towards a very different Henry Moore, less serene and comfortable in portrayal, showing instead a darker, edgier and profoundly more complex artist. The Tate, in collaboration with the Art Gallery of Ontario leave one with a sense that Moore’s sculpture and in particular his early works represented an exploration of the body form within a fragmented, absurd and claustrophobic context, expressing the human condition through fragility, fragmentation, violation and eroticism.
Commencing with a display of Moore’s early works of the 1920’s, largely of stone studies alongside which the artist’s sketchbooks and preliminary studies are presented, the exhibition focuses on Moore’s appropriation of the ‘primitive art’ form, which he believed possessed an intense vitality resulting from its direct and immediate response to life, free of academicism and maintaining a truth of material.
The exhibition tracks the course of Moore’s career over a forty year period up until 1960, from which point forward the artist’s works became more associated with self referential concerns, despite making some of his most significant forms.
Any practicing sculptor of stone and bronze must have a deeply rooted interest in material form and the tactility therein, and believe as Moore did, that art and particularly works of sculpture should be touched to be experienced. As an art college professor once said, “sculpture is not something that can not be appreciated, nor should merely be appreciated by vision alone”. The hand being free to follow the surface and contour of a sculpture, to experience every marking, texture and the tooling marks as the artist intended after long hours of exertion. This is of course something that cannot be done within most of our encounters with works of fine art and, of course, due to the delicate and often priceless nature of collections, should not even be considered, particularly within the Tate – if one values their right to return. But when confronted with Moore’s works, the yearning to reach out and experience first hand the polished surface of an alabaster figure, or one of Corsehill stone or Elmwood can be insufferable and therein lies the secret to the beauty and attraction of Moore’s craft and is a challenge to the exhibition curators.
Whether it be from an appreciation of the artist’s abstracted modernist forms, or through an exploration of his multi-faceted, creative processes in the many artistic media represented here, you will leave the exhibition with a fresh outlook on the works of Henry Moore.
Until 8th August 2010
London SW1P 4RG
PHONE: +44 (0)20 7887 8888
OPENING TIMES: Daily 10.00-17.50
Exhibitions open 10.00-17.40 (last admission 17.00)
Late at Tate Britain First Friday of each month, 18.00-22.00 (last entry to exhibitions 21.00, exhibitions close 21.40)
Closed 24, 25, 26 December (open as normal on 1 January)
TALKS AND DISCUSSIONS:
His Darkened Imagination: Surrealist Moore
Thursday 13th May 2010
GUIDED EXHIBITION TOURS:
Guided tours of the exhibition take place every Friday and Saturday at 12.15 (from 19 March excluding bank holidays). Tickets are £5 plus the price of an exhibition ticket. Places are limited to 15 per tour.
The nearest underground stations to Tate Britain are:
Pimlico (Victoria Line, 600 metres approx.)
Westminster (Jubilee, District and Circle Lines, 750 metres approx.)
Vauxhall (Victoria Line, 850 metres approx.)
The following buses stop near Tate Britain:
Route 87 stops on Millbank
Routes 88 and C10 stop on John Islip Street
Routes 2, 36, 185, 436 stop on Vauxhall Bridge Road
The nearest mainline train stations to Tate Britain are:
Vauxhall (850 metres approx.)
Victoria (1,600 metres approx.)
Reproduced by permission of The Henry Moore Foundation