Henry Moore. Work- Theory – Impact
OUT OF STOCK
Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2008
out of print
Henry Moore set new standards for the sculpture of the 20th century. This book comprehensively examines his contribution under new aspects. Once celebrated as the ‘Picasso of sculpture’, today Moore can be viewed from a more critical perspective in light of his given premises and goals. The artist has become a figure in history. His monumental bronzes, stone and wood sculptures are located throughout the world. He received the highest honors and was reflected upon in an immense range of literature, while his works were exhibited worldwide, first supported by the British Council and later by the Henry Moore Foundation. Today a certain distance allows the question as to the core of his message and the persistent aura of his work to be posed again from a fresh perspective.
Christa Lichtenstern, one of the most well known international experts in modern sculpture, has continuously studied Moore’s work through numerous relevant publications produced over the course of more than two decades of teaching and research. She conducted various conversations with the artist himself in the 1970s and early 1980s.
In part one of this book she first familiarizes the reader with Moore’s work and intentions. As an introduction, the historical determinants of his artistic development are thus carefully probed, his understanding of Paul Cezanne, Henri Gaudier- Brzeska, Jacob Epstein, Brancusi, Archipenko, Zadkine and, repeatedly, Picasso. Lichtenstern then investigates his ‘surrealistic’ period and a, to a certain extent, lifelong development of certain relevant concepts that Moore adapted in his own manner, such as constructive biomorphism, the objet trouvé aesthetic, the method metamorphosis and the double image. Additional chapters take a look at the manifestation of form and iconography of the Shelter Drawings, his dialogue with Greek antiquity and Italian inspirations (Giotto, Bellini, Michelangelo, G. Pisano, Pontormo) and his late work with its innovative sculptures in public space. The chapter ‘The Irish- Anglo- Saxon Constant’ gives evidence of Moore’s ‘Englishness’ for the first time – along with his love of Stonehenge, the early medieval high cross and also, naturally, of Turner, Blake and Constable. His subliminal Connection to the Romanesque Period serves a fertile ground for his high esteem for Rodin. Thus from the point of view of art theory, Moore’s place in 20th century art history is determined in a precise manner, always based on his motifs.
In part II Moore’s guiding theoretical concepts and their grounding in the history of aesthetics are examined, in order to comprehend his understanding of tradition and the modern era. With his terms, such as ‘organic whole’ and ‘spiritual vitality’, he was engaged in the discussion that was broached by German Idealism and included English Romanticism. In addition, Moore is proven to have studied Goethe. He shared his idealistic empiricism and knowledge of the laws of ‘Gestaltbildung’, evidenced in elements of his ever- developing group of works in wood, the ‘Reclining Figures’. In 1949 he illustrated Goethe’s Prometheus. Also from other terms, such as balance, rhythm, size, space, intensity associated with Moore’s works, springs his central message, to communicate “humanity” based on organic sculptural language.
Part III also explores completely new territory, as it offers an overview of Moore’s impact after 1945, how it was manifested in the different political systems of West and East Germany, England, America, Japan, Russia and Poland. His lifelong attempt to reconcile abstraction and figuration is mirrored in the fact, that the West was primarily attracted to the ‘surrealistic’, biomorph- abstract Moore, while the East preferred the figurative, “classical” Moore from the period of the Shelter Drawings and the 1950s.
Tracing these developments in the context of their cultural-political implications ultimately leads to a confirmation of Moore’s artistic agility and immense vitality through the history of the impact of his work. Many artists of different origin developed the same focuses of interest without knowing each other. Examples of the impact of his work accumulate in modes of depiction: reclining figures, direct carving, archaism, surrealism, natural analogies, war, empty space (hole) and biomorphic abstraction. The result is a worldwide consensus, decided by a show of hands, as to Moore’s contemporary relevance.