Henry Moore: Plasters
9 April – 9 October 2016
Touring exhibition in Wuppertal, Germany
“These are not plaster casts; they are plaster originals … they are the actual works that one has done with one’s own hands. ”
Best known for his monumental bronzes and stone carvings, until recently Henry Moore’s plasters have been regarded as preparatory stages in his sculptural process rather than as works of art in their own right. In fact, their scarred surfaces, on which each incised line is visible, convey a sense of immediacy and a complexity of texture that are less prominent in the highly finished bronzes, lending them a disturbing intensity. Acutely aware of the psychological and aesthetic changes that occurred in his sculptures once he cast them from plaster to bronze, Moore made some works only in plaster.
“Plaster has a ghost-like unreality in contrast to the solid strength of the bronze.”
Moore favoured working in plaster as it could be moulded when wet and carved when dry. With plaster he found complete freedom of form-invention; not limited to the inherent limitations of a block of stone or wood, he could open out and enlarge forms to any scale. He provided texture with files and chisels as well as dental tools and everyday objects such as cheese graters. Often plasters would be left in foundries for over a year while editions were cast and bronze dust would accumulate in the crevices of the sculptures. Moore sometimes emulated this effect by adding watercolour wash. Others were coloured using walnut crystals or clay wash. Unlike fellow sculptors who painted their sculpture, such as Barbara Hepworth, Moore felt that colour distracted from form; in these plasters the use of subtle colouring is rarely to pick out particular shapes or to imagine how they might look in bronze, but rather to give the forms an organic warmth more reflective of their origin from animal bones and other found objects.
Initially many plasters were destroyed to prevent further bronzes being cast once an edition was complete, and others were damaged due to fragility or during the casting process. Over time, however, Moore increasingly retained his plasters, and gifted 57 sculptures to the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto for the creation of the Henry Moore Sculpture Center in 1974, now with a holding of more than nine hundred works.
The display of this group of 30 plasters at Skulpturenpark Waldfrieden, Cragg Foundation, has particular significance because of Tony Cragg’s longstanding admiration of Moore’s work.