April sees the opening of an exciting new exhibition of Henry Moore's plaster sculptures in Wuppertal, Germany.
Whilst sorting through our image collection, one of our Volunteer Archive Assistants, John Foster found a wonderful photograph which reminded us that the maquette for Draped Reclining Woman became Moore's Fragment Figure 1957 (LH 430). After Moore made the plaster maquette of the woman in his studio, it became broken - perhaps through misadventure, as the surfaces were often cluttered with tools, found objects and other plaster maquettes.
However, Moore was not saddened by the damage. He decided the figure, devoid of head, arms and lower legs looked wonderfully like statuary from ancient Greece. There is certainly a correlation with the pose of the reclining male figure of Ilissos from the Parthenon West Pediment. Moore had delighted in visiting the ‘Elgin Marbles' at the British Museum when he was a student at the Royal College of Art. In particular he valued the drapery which he believed expressed tension in the figure:
“Drapery can emphasise the tension in a figure, for where the form pushes outwards, such as on the shoulders, the thighs, the breasts, etc., it can be pulled tight across the form (almost like a bandage), and by contrast with the crumpled slackness of the drapery which lies between the salient points, the pressure from inside is intensified . . . Drapery can also, by its direction over the form, make more obvious the section, that is, show shape. It need not be just a decorative addition, but can serve to stress the sculptural idea of the figure.”
The original, broken plaster maquette Fragment Figure, is now in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), Canada. The gallery holds the largest collection of Moore works, outside of Perry Green.
Moore successfully used drapery on many of his female forms. As our wonderful micro-site Works in Public shows, Wuppertal has a cast of Moore's Draped Seated Woman 1957-58 bronze, (LH 428). The sculpture is on loan to the Tony Cragg Foundation, and can be seen in the grounds of their Skulpturenpark Waldfrieden.
But Moore's figure was not a hit with the public when it was first unveiled, in it's original location outside of the Wuppertaler Schauspielhaus. In 1959 the cast was tarred and feathered and signs stating "One hundred frying pans could have been made from this" were hung around the figure's neck.
The display of 30 plasters at Skulpturenpark Waldfrieden, Cragg Foundation highlights the importance of these original forms. Until recently Moore's plasters have been regarded as preparatory stages in his sculptural process rather than works of art in their own right. Moore favoured working in plaster as it could be moulded when wet and carved when dry.
Referring to Moore's use of the human form in his sculpture, Tony Cragg writes in the Introduction to the Body and Void exhibition catalogue that Moore's artwork "reminds us that for whatever reasons we are here, and however long human beings exist, the form, shape and quality of this existence lie in our hands". Recalling the first time he saw Moore's plasters in person, Cragg states that he immediately became "engaged by these energetically carved sculptures and the vivid marks left by their shaping."
The exhibition at Skulpturenpark Waldfrieden is open 09 April - 09 October 2016.