Sunday, 11 April 2010

Henry Moore at Tate Britain

Apart from seeing pieces in isolation in various galleries around the world, this was my first real experience of Moore's work and I found Henry Moore at Tate Britain an invaluable introduction to the subject. I always find it helpful and reassuring when an exhibition follows a straightforward biopic structure, and thus the exhibition did not disappoint. I recommend it to anyone who wants to get to know the work of Henry Moore.

Moore's early work (1920s) was heavily informed by African and North American ethnographical studies and art [Room 1]. The exhibition focuses in particular on his fascination with the Mother and Child imagery that characterised much of his work during this period [Room 2].

Moore's relationship with Modernism in the 1930s is explored in depth [Room 3 and Room 4]. This was the period in which he developed his characteristic style and earned international reputation. His subject matter was wide-ranging embracing the famous reclining figures and revisiting his earlier themes of mother and child in innovative ways. Moore's work during this period was not totally immune from the wider artistic influence of Surrealism and the inspiration, at different times, both of geometry and of nature.

The most surprising aspect of this exhibition for me was Moore's wartime work as a graphic artist depicting scenes of Londoners sheltering from the Blitz in the Underground. Moore abandoned sculpture during the war year and his powerful images which portray the subjects more as if they were corpses in a mortuary, are really quite disturbing [Room 5].

Post-war Moore returned to three-dimensions but much of his work of this period was characterised but dark and harsh imagery, perhaps reflecting the shadow cast by the war and by the new era of the Cold War the bomb [Room 6].

The exhibition closes on a much more optimistic note with four magnificent elm sculptures of reclining figures of over-sized human proportions [Room 7].

Having had such an interesting taste of Moore's work, I am intend to see the exhibition again over the over months and plan to visit to his former home at Perry Green, Herts, where more monumental sculptures await.

Henry Moore at Tate Britain runs until 8th August 2010.

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