Henry Moore – Back to a Land, at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park
When I was a boy I walked regularly through the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, to get a lift home from school. The gardens were then home to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and a large reclining Henry Moore sculpture sat on the lawn beside the gallery. It seemed then a very natural, organic object, part of the daily landscape, imposing but always serene and unthreatening. It is perhaps my earliest remembered sculptural form.
It seemed such a natural form that I had no idea then, or indeed until quite recently, how revolutionary Moore’s sculptures were. Moore had set aside the classical tradition on which sculpture had been based since the ancient Greeks and replaced it with a new tradition based on the forms of more ancient traditions, and of nature itself. This is not to say that he set aside the figurative tradition. Moore’s sculptures are overwhelmingly of the female figure, sensuous, almost erotic at times, but strongly linking the female form with the shapes of the landscape and of natural forms; the female as earth mother. The resulting sculptures can only be described as wondrous.
The breadth and depth of Moore’s achievements as sculptor and draughtsman are very well laid out in the new exhibition, Henry Moore – Back to a Land, at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The exhibition fills both the three underground galleries at the YSP and much of the surrounding area. It includes both a wide range of sculptures, in wood, stone, plaster and bronze, and some very beautiful drawings. It is truly a ‘must see’ exhibition.