Celebrating 80 years of Henry Moore in Hertfordshire
Release date: Monday, 14 September 2020
The Henry Moore Foundation, one of the country’s leading art charities, is celebrating 80 years of the artist in Hertfordshire.
Henry Moore is widely recognised as one of the most important artists of the twentieth century and most influential British sculptor if the modern era, changing the way the human body was seen and setting his works in nature. His monumental bronzes are publicly available in civic squares around the world.
Born in Yorkshire in 1898, Moore enlisted in the British Army, serving in World War One, his ex-serviceman grant enabled him to enrol at art school, first in Leeds (1919-21) then in London at the Royal College of Art (1921-24). During World War Two his ability to make sculpture was limited, instead his now famous Shelter Drawings of figures in the London Underground during the Blitz secured his popular reputation.
Moore moved out of London to the hamlet of Perry Green, near Bishop’s Stortford in September 1940. He and his wife Irina had been staying with a friend near Much Hadham during the first weeks of the Blitz and upon returning to London, found that their Hampstead flat and studio had been damaged in a bombing raid, so they went back to this now much loved area of the countryside renting part of a seventeenth century farmhouse called Hoglands in Perry Green, less than 30 miles from London. It was near enough to London for him to travel backwards and forwards, spending the night in the shelters and returning to Perry Green in the day to do the drawings.
Henry Moore in his sitting room, with his drawing Three Draped Standing Figures 1944 (HMF 2254), 1946.
Photo: F.J. Goodman
Initially the move was intended to be temporary, as Moore wrote to his friend Jane Clark, wife of Sir Kenneth Clark, then Director of the National Gallery in London:
“We’re here at a village called Much Hadham in Hertfordshire. Do you know this part? It’s surprisingly pretty and unspoilt for so near to London (27 miles). I think we may stay here for some time. We’ve taken a house here that happened to be to let – or rather it’s half a house, but self-contained and Irina has the full use & control of the very neglected garden which she’s enjoying playing about in & trying to put into order – although it will be a long time before there can be any results from he efforts, & by then we may no longer be here. […]
It’s easy to get to London & I go up once or twice each week when there’s anything to be seen to – & perhaps also out of morbid curiosity, & a strange subdued excitement there is being in London now. […]
We’re beginning to feel more or less settled down here & I’ve got back to some drawing & I am enjoying it. I’ve joined the Home Guard here, & go out on Night duty patrolling the country lanes twice a week ”
They immediately felt settled and bought the property the following year when it expectantly became available, the deposit was provided by the timely sale of Moore’s sculpture ‘Reclining Figure’. A move that had begun as necessary turned into an opportunity and Henry and Irina Moore remained in Perry Green for the rest of their lives. Moore acquired more land, piece by piece, adding more studios and the estate, now Henry More Studios & Gardens, covers over 70 acres and remains an important record to how he worked and lived.
The life, work and home of Henry Moore are inseparable, each shaping the other. In 1977 he created the Henry Moore Foundation and welcomed in the public. This was indicative of the openness and generosity with which he approached people throughout his life. Each collector, friend, client or student met Moore the man in his home, amid his collections, before experiencing the studios, work and grounds. Throughout his career he worked with a number of dealers in the UK and America but, despite being courted, he always resisted signing an exclusive contract. Hi home consequently became his primary space for meetings. In the process for developing his work for the Lincoln Centre in New York (1963-65), more than six visits were made by the commissioning team to Hoglands and the architect Gordon Bunshaft became a close friend, often flying in just in time for Sunday lunch with the family. Notable guests to his Hertfordshire home include; Julie Andrews, W. H. Auden, Georges Braque, T.S Elliot, Erno Goldfinger, Graham Greene, Peggy Guggenheim, Denys Lasdun, Princess Margaret, Lee Miller, Joan Miró, I.M.Pei, Mark Rothko to name but a few.
The anniversary coincides with Hertfordshire’s Year of Culture 2020 – a year-long festival celebrating the creative heart of a county which greatly influenced Henry Moore’s work.
“I think the fact that we have lived here since 1941  was very fortunate for me and for the development of my work. Gradually we were able to acquire further areas where I can place and relate my sculptures to the landscape.”
“Without that piece of ground I cannot imagine how I could have produced some of the large sculptures that I have done in the last ten years. If a large sculpture has to be made in a studio it would be impossible to get away from it, and I would tend to work on its surface rather than on its bigger architectural forms. In our garden I can place the sculptures and see what they look like from a distance and in all weather conditions”
Henry Moore Studios & Gardens
Dane Tree House
T: +44 (0)1279 843 333
31 March to 31 October
Open: Wednesdays to Sundays and Bank Holidays, 11am to 5pm
Closed: Mondays and Tuesdays