Thursday, 26 May 2016

Henry Moore-Or Less.

Henry Moore with his totemic sculptures across the world has been hailed as the greatest British Sculptor creating over 900 sculptures.
 He left thousands of drawings and had 40 exhibitions at the same time, when he was in his 80's.
It was said that he broke down traditions and moved barriers.
 Awards from all directions, honour after honour piled as high as the hills that showed off his work in landscapes near and far.
It was said that he followed the 19th Century sculptors.
 To this I disagree.
 He walked the walk and certainly could talk the talk and his theories were championed by academics and historians. 
The most famous being Kenneth Clark who was indeed a clever man. He understood the principles of design architecture and form and function, so it seems when you listen to his preachings on the subject.
Art is subjective and who would argue with the scholars who proclaimed that Henry Moore was leading us to the promised land of sculpture. 
But what if they were wrong?

He certainly, in my opinion created some rubbish. 
If work cant be questioned for every individual piece then it becomes a 'Henry Moore' or a 'Picasso'.
 He was later given the freedom of the city.
 Born in 1898 in Castleford in Yorkshire.  in a terrace house he was good at pottery and was encouraged by his art teacher. Sunday school morals.
 He said he was inspired at an early age by a story he heard about Michaelangelo (sic) who took advice from a passer by whilst carving in Florence.
I don't recall Michaelangelo creating sculpture theme parks, but there you go.
He had a strict routine starting at 8 with breakfast and then instructing his staff at nine. He would then read the Times. Lunch was important and everyone had a bottle of Guinness one commentator John Read who recorded six programmes about his life said it was a joy to watch him carving a sirloin of beef. “It was one of the small joys in life” he proclaimed in sycophantic admiration.
He had a team of men working for him.
In the court of balding middle aged men he was king. They would hang on his every word.
He taught and loved making films using the television as his medium. Most people who lapped up his words could not even paint a wall such was the lack of practical experience from those that wrote about him.
Most art of primitive form was at the time placed in ethnological sections in museums and was thought of as some crude form or function from the ancient past.
 Then with advent of modern art the likes of Moore with his interpretations of ethnic art it suddenly became clever to cross reference these old cultures and make the new art.

Was he the man who made sculptures with a hole in or did he really understand the figure?
His out of chaos drawings to me are poor at best. He was asked to be a war artist and he took the easy way out. His drawings are bereft of emotion in my opinion. They lack clarity and scale. He said “There stretched out in front of me the rows and rows of reclining figures.
Henry Moore reclining figures.” They are weak sketches at best and a cop out.

He may as well have just sketched a load of sacks in the dark. What credible artist sketches.....sheep. Where is the skill in that?

 John Read says
“It was something of a paradox......... and his greatest single contribution to the art of sculpture was the idea of being able to combine ones feeling of landscape and that of the figure not as two separate things but as one single image he saw the figure as landscape and the landscape as a figure.
Romantic ideas and a romantic tradition of English literature in English paintings combined now in one single body of work.”
Is this rubbish? Is this gobbledegook from a sycophant who could be sold anything?
Does it kid me? No.
I think his feeling of the figure and the landscape being inspired from a rock with a hole in it being turned into a mother and child in bronze now seems absurd. 
Some people will believe anything. And so they did students and tutors followed him. With his every twist and turn of the mallet they bestowed more accolades on him.
More commissions. He littered a remote valley in Scotland with poor quality work that was sucked up by the people to whom he could do no wrong.
I laugh at the King and Queen sitting atop a hill looking out to a Loch.
They lack detail and skill and emotion. The Emperor is not wearing any clothes.
 I would not walk 10 feet to look at these never mind travel hundreds of miles.
They are talked about by educated people in terms of tortured souls. He did a huge cruciform that looks like a giant leg bone.
In a BBC Moniter programme made in 1960 it is easy to see how his images beguiled the masses, well those that could afford a TV in the post war depression era where his sort of people.

Mrs Moore collected Aztec work and filled the house with art. He spoke about the sculptures from the collection with BBC English that made him an acceptable authority.
 He admits that he watched the Moniter programme about Lawrence Durrel.......and suddenly his books meant more to him. He became closer to him.
He shows shapes and bones that inspire the beginnings of his work. There are scores of Mother and Child sculptures some plaster maquettes others cast in bronze.
They are not Madonna and Child though he says there is a distinction. He talks about the Cezanne that kept him awake for three nights trying to decide whether to fork out the monumental amount to purchase it. 
There is a painting in his studio. Bathers Composition. “It gives me tremendous joy to have. Its not perfect it is a sketch but then I don't like absolute perfection, I believe one should make a struggle to something one cant do rather than do the thing you can do easily. It had my kind of figure in it.”

He spoke about dividing up his sculptures and seperating some of his work and how some have more variety than others and that they are a mixture between human form and landscape amalgamating both. He says talking about these reclining figures of 1928 whilst showing photographs. “It is a kind of metaphor, err like in poetry, you would say, err, the mountains skipped like lambs and here the figure is connected with the earth, with rocks mountains, metaphor.
He was given the Order of Merit.
 His sculpture Atom Piece, in my opinion, implodes so much on itself that it should be renamed Damp Squib. Yet he still kept up the charade and he went to quarry Carrera marble from the same place Michaelangelo got his.
He then ruined a good bit of rock with a carving that is so beneath any reference to the great man.
I am sure he would not have been allowed to carve a toenail of a work by the Michaelangelo. 
He would not even be allowed the job of polishing Michelangelo shoes he was not skilled enough.
He chose the marble and thought, wrongly, that he was fulfilling his destiny.

Yet the TV programmes kept on coming. Kenneth Clark was a collector of his work....hugely discounted for sure, so it was definitely in his interests to mention his in his epic series Civilization.
He was invited by the Mayor of Florence to display work. 400,000 people went to the outdoor exhibition and the faith of the Mayor was vindicated. 
No doubt tourism increased and it became the most talked about exhibition of the year. What would Vasari have said about his uneasy figures set against Brunellesci Dome. Florence with Museums full of works by Botticelli.
The Florentine public took it to their heart.
Oval with points now looks a childish gimmick and his bronze crucifiction form, a version of his Scottish mountain weighed heavily along side a King and Queen 1952, another version, or edition.

Square Form With Cut 1970 made from Carrera marble. Michaelangelo would be turning in his grave.
Retrospectives continued year after year.
Then he turned to drawing sheep. I tried reading a book illustrated with his sheep once .....….and I fell asleep.
 He talks about understanding the skeleton of a sheep.
Why did he not draw from life the human form the biggest test. 
You wouldn't want to draw a fat man with a woolly jumper on, would you?
I think he was a fashion item in a new age. 
But I don't think he has worn well and I fear to say what is wrong with his work after so many scholars and writers have poured praise on his creations without searching thier own souls..
Stolen and sold for scrap
The value of Moore’s Reclining Figure was also low in the eyes of the thieves who stole a different cast of the same sculpture in December 2005. When it was filched from the Henry Moore Foundation in Perry Green, police initially feared that the sculpture had been stolen to order. Further investigations suggested, however, that it had been taken by a team of traveller who sold the work as scrap metal. The two-tonne Reclining Figure was worth £3 million, but melted down it would only have been worth £1,500.

The real legacy is that he helped create a new generation of sculptors such as Arthur Dooley that did not need to understand the anatomical form that had shaped the world of art for centuries.
 He gave an opportunity to a generation that did not require the talent or meticulous study of the human form.
 Anyone could now, get away with amateurism that claimed it provoked an emotion. 

Well, I hear you say, that is good. But not at the expense of craftsmanship I reply.

There are some works by Moore that I like. Sometimes it works. But really.


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