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Walter Buckley Pearson

Walter Buckley Pearson (1878-1963) was former Head of Drawing and Painting Department at Leeds School of Art (1905-1921). It was during his time in this post that Pearson taught Henry Moore, as well as other notable artists such as Barbara Hepworth.

Pearson was born in 1878 in Dukinfield, near Ashton Under Lyne, Cheshire. In 1891 Pearson and his family moved to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and later New Bedford, Massachusetts, to work in textile production mills. During his time in the United States Pearson undertook lessons at the Swaynes Free School. On his return to England in 1893 he continued to pursue his education in the School of Art in Ashton Under Lyne. After obtaining an Art Class Teacher’s Certificate from the Board of Education, Pearson was then awarded a scholarship by Lancashire County Council to the Royal College of Art, London. Pearson studied in London until the early 1900s.

By 1905, Walter Buckley Pearson had been appointed Head of the Drawing and Painting Department at Leeds School of Art. Henry Moore began his education at Leeds School of Art in September 1919, aged twenty-one, delayed by his service in WWI. Moore was incredibly ambitious to make up for this time, and later on in life recalled: “This was understood from the outset merely to be a first step. London was the goal. But the only way to get to London was to take the Board of Education examinations and win a scholarship… Leeds school was very proficient in teaching tricks of getting through examinations” The Life of Henry Moore, Roger Berthoud, pg.35

In order to achieve his goal of getting to London as quickly as he could, Moore had to take the two-year drawing course in one year. Alongside his friend Raymond Coxon, Henry Moore was coached through this enormous task by Walter Buckley Pearson. Although Moore was often reluctant about the traditional subject matters, as well as the technique (Pearson was very strict about students shading at an angle of exactly 45 degrees as he knew this is what the examiner was looking for) he persevered.

Pearson was undoubtedly remembered as a kind and caring man by his students. As Roger Berthoud says in his book The Life of Henry Moore: “his ambition was to get them to London, and in achieving that he was very successful” pg.37.

The Henry Moore Archive are extremely grateful to have received a wonderful gift from the Pearson family. When Pearson left Leeds School of Art in 1921 he was gifted a book of John Masefield poetry. On the inside cover all of his students for the year of 1921 signed their names, including Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, and Moore’s close friend Raymond Coxon.

The family have also generously donated a wonderful watercolour of Pearson’s that depicts Adel Crag. Adel Crag was a particularly important landmark of the Yorkshire countryside to not only Walter Pearson, but also Henry Moore. Many years later, in the 1980s, Moore shared his memories of this formative landscape:

“In Yorkshire in Adel Woods just outside Leeds, there was a big rock amongst many that I’ve called Adel Rock. That influenced me quite a bit. For me, it was the first big, bleak lump of stone set in the landscape and surrounded by marvellous gnarled prehistoric trees. It had no feature of recognition, no element of copying of naturalism, just a bleak powerful form, very impressive. It was the local beauty spot, so to speak and I knew it from a child. And much later, when I was a student, I would visit it with friends. We would picnic and draw and play around. It was an exciting place for me, Adel Woods.” – Henry Moore: My Ideas, Inspiration and Life as an Artist, Henry Moore and John Hedgecoe, pg. 35

After his time at Leeds School of Art, Pearson was head of Halifax School of Art until 1938 when he retired. In his retirement he moved to Newport, Essex, only 14 miles away from Henry Moore’s home in Perry Green. Walter Buckley Pearson died in Saffron Walden in 1963.