Against Nature: The hybrid forms of modern sculpture

7 February – 4 May 2008

Exhibition in Galleries 1, 2 and 3

Sculpture has frequently been used as a medium of metamorphosis, its malleable materials allowing fantastic forms to become real as it mixes human, animal and vegetal components.

This exhibition begins in the late 19th century when many sculptors turned their back on classical notions of anatomy and used sculpture as a vehicle for the imagination. Against Nature presents a common fascination with the world of the hybrid across the various art movements of the 20th century, right up to recent years with the work of Louise Bourgeois.

Figures drawn from classical mythology - sphinxes, chimeras and centaurs - were the stock subjects of late 19th century Salon exhibitions. Meanwhile, outside the gallery, the pressures of industrialisation and of Darwin’s theory of evolution provided compelling new contexts for the hybrid.

To say that sculpture was ‘against nature’ at this time is to suggest two lines of enquiry: firstly that sculpture could create impossible beings that went beyond the natural order, but which evolution could potentially deliver; secondly, that sculpture presents absurd fantasy creatures by means of realistic modelling so as to suggest their ‘real life’ existence.

Despite the various positions of each successive avant-garde movement – symbolism, futurism, vorticism, constructivism, surrealism - fantasy sculpture and anatomical reinvention run across them all. Sculptors soon moved from taking on mythological subjects to inventing their own modern monsters, drawing on the machine as much as on myth, as with Jacob Epstein’s Rock Drill (1913-15).

This exhibition introduces little known sculptors from across Europe and the Americas and places them in a freakish family tree which also includes some of the ‘iconic’ images of modern sculpture. Thus the exhibition includes works by Hans Arp, Umberto Boccioni, Max Ernst, Julio González and Germaine Richier alongside Thomas Theodor Heine and Dimitri Paciurea. It suggests a new way of looking at the emergence of modern sculpture and at its underlying continuities c.1890s-1980s.

This exhibition is presented by the Henry Moore Institute in association with the Sculptuur Instituut, Scheveningen where it will tour from 16 May to 7 September 2008 and the Gerhard-Marcks-Haus, Bremen where it will tour from 14 September to 23 November 2008.

Venue details

7 February - 4 May 2008

Venue address

Henry Moore Institute
The Headrow
United Kingdom
T: 0113 246 7467

Opening times

Galleries: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am - 5pm

Research Library: Monday to Saturday, 10am - 5pm; Sunday, 1 - 5pm
Archive of Sculptors' Papers: Tuesday to Friday, by prior appointment

16 May - 7 September 2008

Venue address

Sculptuur Instituut
Harteveltstraat 1
Den Haag
T: +31 70 3589076
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Opening times

Monday: Closed
Tuesday to Sunday: 10am - 5pm

14 September - 23 November 2008

Venue address

Am Wall 208
T: +49 421 98 97 52 0
Visit website

Opening times

Monday: Closed
Tuesday to Sunday: 10am - 6pm
Thursday: 10am - 9pm

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