Henry Moore’s Vision

Godfrey Worsdale

From a quaint hamlet in Hertfordshire, Henry Moore managed his global art presence. His bucolic home and studio, Perry Green, served not only as a refuge from the blitz in London but a profound source of inspiration.

Godfrey Worsdale guides us around this unique environment, today home of the Henry Moore Foundation, as he outlines the artist’s early life, love of museums and fascination with nature. He shows the way Moore’s influences span ancient and modern sources, his work rooted in the abstract and the real. Such was Moore’s gift for translating these disparate ideas into sculpture, his works prompt us to re-examine the world around us. In this way, Moore ‘shows us how to see’.

Other films featuring Henry Moore works:

Art & Soul at St Paul’s Cathedral with Sandy Nairne

Pisa Pulpit: ‘Judge by the correct law!’ with Jules Lubbock

1 comment on “Henry Moore’s Vision

Sign up or Login to comment and join the discussion.

We’re here in Perry Green in Hertfordshire on the estate of Henry Moore’s former home, studios and gardens. And we’re surrounded by Moore’s work in the landscape that he conceived to present it. Perry Green started off for Moore as a cottage, and it grew to a seventy-two-acre estate, and really became the epicentre of his global art presence. From this small hamlet in Hertfordshire he created works that were seen right around the globe and everything was managed from this tiny quaint English spot.

From Moore’s earliest recollections he was inspired by nature, and not just the landscape, but in fragments, in rocks, in things he found. All those things fed into his creativity. And I think once he found himself in a rural environment, in a place where he could see his work in a natural setting, I think that’s where his heart really felt most comfortable.

[Henry Moore:] “I like sculpture in the open air. I prefer my sculpture to be seen with the trees, and the sky, water… rather than with architecture.

Moore wanted his sculptures to be perceived in the round, from every aspect, and Moore was very determined that by giving them space in the outdoors that people could really interact with them physically as well as intellectually. If we take a fabulous piece, the monumental bronze large Double Oval which sits in the grounds here at Perry Green, it is so at home in this natural environment and there is something very man-made even though, you know, we might find an association with the vertebrate that Moore was inspired by, but this huge creation sits against a beautiful green backdrop so comfortably and so well.

In 1898, Moore is born into a large family in Castleford in Yorkshire. There was very little sculpture around in Yorkshire at that time but he would go into his local church, he would look at Norman carvings, he might find a postcard that he would make a copy of. Henry Moore’s ambitions to become an artist were interrupted by the First World War. He was involved in the Battle of Cambrai, where he was invalided out of the army and as soon as the war ended he took up an ex-serviceman’s grant and travelled to Leeds College of Art. The driving force whilst a student in Leeds was one clear objective, and that was to be able to move to London, to study in the great museums, and he was successful in gaining a scholarship to the Royal College of Art.

In Henry Moore’s early years in London, he became very interested in his visits to the British Museum in Sumerian sculpture. This work from the 3rd millennium BC comes from what we now think of as modern-day Basra. It was enormously influential to him, and the motif of the clasped hands was something in which Moore saw huge sculptural potential. Moore took this particular form and repeated it several times, and again developed something new that enabled him to talk about subject matter, and form in the same work.

As Moore is developing, we see him really engaging with abstract forms and artists who are beginning to dispense with representation, slowly he absorbs all these things. The critical thing to understand about the more abstracted work is that it often has its roots in figuration. To move between those two disciplines was really at the heart of his best work.

One really crucial aspect of Henry Moore’s work is his drawings. Moore never, ever stopped drawing his whole life. He produced hundreds and hundreds of drawings, and often you’d find a small sheet with maybe twelve, fifteen sculpture ideas on. And occasionally a tiny, little secret mark by one of those drawings to say this is the work that might one day be realised as a sculpture.

Then war breaks out, and Moore almost stops being a sculptor. He is quickly conscripted to become a war artist, and very famously chose to focus on the London underground stations as air-raid shelters, and spend many evenings in London, in the shelters, with his sketch-pad, and created what is regarded as one of his most important bodies of work. The shelter drawings, in a way, coincided with Moore’s adoption by the general public so he’d gone from a figure creating these very challenging abstract forms to a man who’d captured something very particular about the humanity of the British.

This is Family Group from 1946, it’s the earliest work we have outdoors on display here at Perry Green at the moment, and was made immediately after the Second World War, when Moore’s shelter drawings have become very prominent, he really embraced figurative work again. Also, he and his wife Irina had recently become parents for the first time, so the notion of Family Group was very, very close personally to Moore. But it also presented him with an opportunity to work formally with a group of three fundamental elements, and so this is both sculpturally engaging but also has a great humanity to it.

When he left London and found himself living in a rural environment I think it really spoke to him. Perry Green really is everything that Henry Moore was in the last forty years of his life. He came here in the Second World War, after his studio had been bombed.

If I had to select a favourite work here at Perry Green, I think I would select The Arch. It’s a piece you can walk through, you can understand it in relation to your own scale, but you can’t get away from the fact that it feels a little bit like an old bone that Henry Moore picked up on the floor. And now it’s transformed into this enormous, remarkable and very powerful form.

[Henry Moore:] “Any kind of shape which captures one’s eye, at any time, I pick up, and just save or keep. You see, sculpture is purely this interest in form and shape, any shape whatever, people, trees, the clouds, any shape, whatever, is a possible starting point or excitement for one…”

I think that the origins of his best ideas were formed as he worked in the maquette studio, as he took fragments, examples of older work, flint, bones, pieced them together, stuck them together with plasticine, all kinds of materials, waiting for that ideal form to appear.

This work is called Locking Piece. Moore was playing around with a couple of flints, moving them against themselves and they kind of locked into a single entity. Now we see it as a two-metre-high sculpture, sat in the middle of the grounds where those things were picked up off the floor. So it’s a very circular process.

Moore achieved a huge amount in his life. I think his real achievement was to become a truly international artist, and to demonstrate to all those who followed him that British artists can have that global impact. If I had to choose something that really makes me empathise with what Moore tries to do in his art, it would quite simply be that he shows you how to see. The more you look at Moore’s forms and what he created, the more you understand the world around you.

With thanks to:

The Henry Moore Foundation

The Leeds Art University

The Royal College of Art

Wakefield Council Libraries

 

Archive

Alamy Stock Photo

The Art Gallery of Ontario

All Canada Photos

BBC Archive

Bridgeman Images

The British Council Collection

The British Museum

DACS

The Estate of Sir Jacop Epstien

Frank and John Farnham Archive

Getty

Granger Historical Picture Archive

Illuminations Media

ITN

ITV Archive

Javier Larrea

The Leeds Art University Archive

The LIFE Images Collection

Peter Horree

The Musée national Picasso-Paris

Pond5

The Royal College of Art Archive

Sherman Grinberg Library

St. Mary’s Church, Burnham Deepdale

Succession Picasso

Tate

Wakefield Council Libraries’ Photographic Collection

 

Music:

9 Lives

Audio Network

 

Full list of images shown: 

Large Reclining Bronze

Henry Moore, 1984

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

Large Double Oval

Henry Moore, 1966

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

Upright Motive No. 5

Henry Moore, 1955-1956

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

The Arch

Henry Moore, 1963-1969

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

Seated Woman

Henry Moore, 1958-1959

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

Various maquettes in Maquette Studio, Perry Green

Henry Moore

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

A Sculptor’s Landscape: Henry Moore

Dir. John Read, 1958

BBC Archive

Accessed through Getty

 

Henry Moore

Dir. John Read, 1951

BBC Archive

Accessed through Getty

 

Oval with Points

Bronze, Exchange Square, Hong Kong

Henry Moore, 1968-1970

Pond5

 

Two Piece Reclining Figure: Cut

Henry Moore, 1979-1981

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

Henry Moore at Home: A Private View of a Personal Collection

Dir. John Read, 1974

BBC Archive

Accessed through Getty

 

Sheep Piece

Henry Moore, 1971-1972

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

Henry Moore in Paris 1977

(Audio only)

ITN / Getty

 

Standing Figure

Henry Moore, 1971

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

Locking Piece

Henry Moore, 1962-1963

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

One Yorkshireman Looks at his World

Dir. John Read, 1967

BBC Archive

Accessed through Getty

 

Parish Church, Castleford

Unknown photographer, n.d.

Wakefield Council Libraries’ Photographic Collection

 

Norman font, detail of a flowering tree

Romanesque, 12th century

Getty

 

Henry Moore aged 19, in his uniform as Private in the 15th London Regiment Civil Service Rifles

Unknown photographer, 1917

Henry Moore Archive

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

Leeds School of Art students

Photographer unknown, c.1920

Leeds College of Art Archive

 

Students in the Royal Academy mural studio

Photographer unknown, c.1936

The Royal Academy Archive

 

Great Court Sequence

British Museum, n.d.

© The Trustees of the British Museum

 

Sumerian Statue

Lagash II, c.2130 BC

© The Trustees of the British Museum

 

Half-Figure

Henry Moore, 1929

Cast concrete

Photo: British Council

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

Seated Figure

Henry Moore, 1929

Cast concrete

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

Girl (detail)

Henry Moore, 1931

Ancaster stone

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

Photo © Tate

 

Girl with Clasped Hands

Henry Moore, 1930

Photo: Sarah Mercer

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

Figures at the Seaside

Pablo Picasso, 1931

Musée Picasso

Alamy Stock Photo

© Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2018

 

The Rock Drill

Jacob Epstein, 1912-1913

Granger Historical Picture Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

© The estate of Sir Jacob Epstein

 

Stringed Figure

Henry Moore, 1938

Photo: Mike Phillips

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

Composition

Henry Moore, 1931

Blue Hornton stone

Photo: Henry Moore archive

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

Seated Figure

Henry Moore, 1948

Pencil, crayon, watercolour wash, gouache

Peter Horree / Alamy Stock Photo

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

Composition

Henry Moore, 1933

Walnut wood

Photo: Henry Moore archive

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

Ideas for the West Wind Sculpture

Henry Moore, 1928

Pen & ink

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018: gift of the artist 1977

 

Sculpture Studies

Henry Moore, 1934

Wash and charcoal

Granger Historical Picture Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

Textile Design: Reclining Figures

Henry Moore, c.1943

Pencil, crayon and pen & ink on paper

Private Collection / Photo © Whitford & Hughes, London, UK / Bridgeman Images

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

Action of British and American Pilots Battling and Shooting Down Nazi War Planes 1944

Archive Footage

Pond 5 / retrofootage

 

Out of Chaos

Dir. Jill Craigie, 1944

ITV Archive

 

London burns during the Blitz in World War II

Archive Footage

Grinberg, Paramount, Pathe Newsreels

Sherman Grinberg Library / Getty

 

Grey Tube Shelter

Henry Moore, 1940

Pencil, wax crayon, coloured crayon, watercolour, wash, pen and ink

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

Photo © Tate

 

Woman Seated in the Underground

Henry Moore, 1941

Pencil, wax crayon, coloured crayon, watercolour, pen and ink.

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

Photo © Tate

 

Shelterers in the Tube

Henry Moore, 1941

Pen, chalk, watercolour and gouache

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

Photo © Tate

 

Family Group

Henry Moore, 1948-1949

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

Henry & Mary Moore

Felix H. Man, 1949

The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images

 

Frank and John Farnham Archive, courtesy The Henry Moore Foundation

(Archive footage of Henry Moore at Perry Green)

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

Monitor: Henry Moore

Dir. Huw Wheldon, 1960

BBC Archive

Accessed through Getty

 

Oval with Points

Henry Moore, 1968-1970

Archive Footage

Pond 5 / pzaxe

 

Large Two Forms

Henry Moore, 1969

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Ron Erwin / All Canada Photos / Alamy Stock Photo

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

Oval with Points Sculpture by Henry Moore, Plaza del Obradoiro, Cathedral, Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña, Galicia, Spain

Photo: 2016

Javier Larrea / age fotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

The Art of Henry Moore

Illuminations Media, 2008

 

Three Standing Figures

Henry Moore, 1947

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

Reclining Mother and Child

Henry Moore, 1975-197

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2018.

 

 

Recently Watched

Watch Next Video

Brian Clarke: The Art of Light

Brian Clarke: The Art of Light 13:02 mins
play_arrow PLAY NOW

A portrait of pioneering architectural artist Brian Clarke.

Gerhard Richter: Doubt

Gerhard Richter: Doubt 12:00 mins
play_arrow PLAY NOW

‘He disturbed my sense of what art should be.’ — Robert Storr on Gerhard Richter

Cézanne: ‘The Father of Modern Art’

Cézanne: ‘The Father of Modern Art’ 14:15 mins
play_arrow PLAY NOW

Jacky Klein discusses how a recluse from the French countryside became the first Modern painter.