Henry Moore and Open Air Sculpture at Kettle’s Yard

A fascinating talk at Kettle’s Yard last night ‘Henry Moore and Open Air Sculpture’ by Dr Jennifer Powell the senior curator at Kettle’s Yard. Dr Powell is fresh from curating the newly opened Moore Galleries at Tate Britain and gave us a fascinating insight into the idea that Moore heading up a British school of sculpture. She focused primarily on the exhibitions held in Battersea Park in the post-war era, arguing that Moore’s primacy in these exhibitions was due not least to his own efforts. Moore was on the panel deciding which works should be displayed and where they should be situated. Keen to attract visitors to the exhibitions the organisers highlighted Moore who was by then an international figure and whose sculpture had a prominent place in the art world. His war time sketches of people sheltering in the underground had fostered both his and the public’s interest in the figure, particularly his sculptures of family groups. This choice of subject and his fame lead to him becoming a convenient figurehead for modern sculpture in post-war Britain. Not only did he have work on display at prominent art galleries such as MoMa and The Tate he was championed by critics such as Herbert Read and the film maker John Read.

Dr Powell pointed us towards the first ever film made of Moore’s work which is on the BBC archives website in which you see Moore’s work set in the landscape of his home. This film was shown prior to the Festival of Britain in 1951 and Moore hoped it would show the sculptures in a setting for which they were both made and inspired by. Moore felt very much that his sculptures showed organic forms inspired by organic life in countryside, rock formations and cliff faces and were not in fact as abstract as they might appear. By the 1960s he felt that sculpture should be both made in the environment that it was to be set in and so moved his studio outside in order to facilitate this.

You can of course see Moore’s sculptures at his home in Perry Green but for those of us in Cambridge there is one closer to home in the gardens at Clare College.

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