The Art of Henry Moore

The Art of Henry Moore

The Art of Henry Moore

The Art of Henry Moore

Excerpt

"If one is to talk about one's contemporaries at all", says T. S. Eliot in an essay on poetry, but which applies equally to the other arts," it is important to make up our minds as to what we can affirm with confidence, and as to what must be a matter of doubting conjecture. The last thing, certainly, that we are likely to know about them is their 'greatness', or their relative distinction or triviality in relation to the standard of 'greatness'. For in greatness are involved moral and social relations, relations which can only be perceived from a remoter perspective, and which may be said even to be created in the process of history: we cannot tell, in advance, what any poetry is going to do, how it will operate upon later generations. But the genuineness of poetry is something which we have some warrant for believing that a small number, but only a small number, of contemporary readers can recognise."

It is, then, the genuineness of a work that has a direct effect in its own time, and it seems to be this genuineness that is meant when we speak loosely of greatness. We rarely do speak of greatness, for who would dare to judge the moral or social significance of even a recognized sculptor or painter. In discussing personalities of the 20th century, we usually refer to the great precursors or teachers, and we come with a considerable degree of unanimity upon the some names. There are not many of them: of the painters Matisse, Picasso, Kandinsky, Klee and Mondrian, only Picasso is still alive; of the sculptors Maillol, Brancusi, Gonzalez, Picasso, Laurens and Arp, only Picasso and Arp are still active. Through their achievements they have become examples to the next generation, especially to those who were and remained independent and saw in these artists more than merely their achievement. A painter like Klee or a sculptor like Brancusi has almost become a legend. People want to know who these men were. How they lived and what they did, said and wrote, is of interest because of the light it throws upon the historical situation as a whole. The words "moral" or "social" frequently crop up in the judgment passed upon them by their contemporaries. Gropius once said of Klee that he was "the highest moral authority at the Bauhaus", and this judgment is confirmed by his students. Historical greatness begins with the creation of a myth, but only rarely does this start during an artist's lifetime.

The following generation, those artists born in the 1890s, among them the sculptor Henry Moore, are also discussed and, though with restraint, evaluated. It is true that their work has been in the foreground of the thoughts of artists and art lovers for a . . .

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