We are delighted that the latest leg of the exhibition of Henry Moore sculpture touring Spain, sponsored by Fundación ‘la Caixa', has just been unveiled in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia.

Though our photos, taken by our Sculpture Conservator James Copper, have captured an exceedingly wet day, the sculptures look stunning in the grand surroundings of the Praza do Obradoro, situated in front of the city cathedral which is a World Heritage Site.

Moore first visited Spain in the late summer of 1934, when he travelled with his wife Irina and friends from his days at Leeds School of Art, Raymond and Edna (‘Gin') Coxon. The foursome drove across the Continent down to the Dordogne in France and on to northern Spain in the Coxon's old convertible Sunbeam tourer, to visit the pre-historic cave paintings at Altamira, Cantabria. The friends eventually made it to Madrid, only after the car had broken down and was fixed by a local mechanic who, after much negotiation, forged a new hub screw themselves.

Moore attempted to travel to Spain once again in early 1938 as a supporter of the Artists International Association, who were deeply concerned over the UK government's lack of action over the increasing violence related to the Spanish Civil War. Writing to Raymond Coxon in late 1936 Moore had told his friend: "Of course one would be moved in any case by the happenings in the Spanish revolutions, but our trip there makes the picture of it twenty times as vivid."

Along with Jacob Epstein and Stephen Spender and several other notable figures, Moore's application for a visa to enter on the invitation of the Republicans Spain was rejected by the British Foreign Office. Moore later recalled:

“The idea was that we were going to tour the Spanish towns and report on the Republican government's attitude towards art, artists, and museum's. ”

Edinburgh Evening News

31 January 1938

In 1938 The British Artists' Congress, which Moore vehemently supported, famously placed a broadsheet advert for which Moore designed the striking blood red image which over-laid the text. "We Ask Your Attention..." carried the signatures of 15 British artists calling for the government to reconsider their policy of non-intervention against the Fascist movement in Spain, drawing attention to the effects of the move to make the recruitment of volunteers illegal and insisting that pacifism had been discredited by the events taking place in Spain. The text concluded by inviting fellow sympathizers to intervene as poets, artists and intellectuals by violent or subtle subversion and by stimulating desire.

Moore went on to produce the haunting drawing Spanish Prisoner 1939 (HMF 1464), which would later become his very first lithographic print.

In 1981 the largest retrospective of Moore's work to be held in Spain opened in Madrid. Organised by the British Council, the exhibition featured some 600 of Moore's artworks, 300 drawings and 300 sculptures and was to be the first major exhibition devoted to a living foreign artist since the death of Franco in 1975 and the subsequent successful restoration of democracy. Although Moore was too unwell to return to the city to attend the opening, he was delighted when the exhibition became a hit with the visiting public. Some 17,000 people, including the Prime Minister saw the show just in the first week.

The last sculptural work to be produced by Moore was the monumental Large Figure in a Shelter 1985-86 bronze, (LH 652c) which stands at 762cm tall. As this work was still at the Morris Singer foundry when the artist died in August 1986 and Moore's will stipulates that upon his death no further works were to be produced, only two copies of the huge sculpture were made; one cast is at Perry Green and the other is in the Spanish city of Guernica. The sculpture, which was sited at the Parque de los pueblos de Europa in 1990, is a fine tribute to those who perished for their cause in the Spanish Civil War.