Magazine article The Spectator

Sculptural Rhythms

Magazine article The Spectator

Sculptural Rhythms

Article excerpt

Moore Rodin The Henry Moore Foundation, Perry Green, Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, until 27 October One generation is usually so busy reacting against its predecessors that it can take years for a balanced appreciation of real and relative merits to emerge. Henry Moore was born in 1898, and Rodin didn't die until 1917, but they never met. All his life Moore was aware of Rodin's work, and although early on he made apprentice works influenced by Rodin, it was only when he had established his own territory as an artist that he could afford to look long and admiringly at the senior artist. Indeed, Moore came to value his work so highly that he included four sculptures and three drawings by Rodin in his own collection and was happy to be consulted over the installation of the great Rodin exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in 1970. The current exhibition - the first time the work of another has been shown beside his own in Moore's old home at Perry Green - tellingly juxtaposes sculptures and drawings by both artists in landscape and gallery settings.

Any visit to the Moore Foundation is incomplete without a tour of Hoglands, the old farmhouse in which the sculptor lived with his wife Irina and daughter Mary. In later life, Moore added a large entertaining room to the original house where he could show off his own work to prospective buyers (he was his own agent), and display his increasingly distinguished collection. The ground-floor interiors are largely unchanged.

Here, for instance, are three paintings by Courbet including a seascape, a large Vuillard and a tiny Renoir of roses, together with an Ivon Hitchens still-life. In the small sitting room at the front of the house are drawings by Daumier and a painting by Sickert entitled 'Yellow Skirt'. In the office is a large and beautiful Degas drawing of a nude and a fine ink portrait of Rodin by William Rothenstein. In the dining room, accompanying a colourful collection of china, are another substantial Vuillard, a little painting of magnolia flowers by Andre Masson and a strong portrait of Moore's mother by his friend and contemporary Raymond Coxon.

The intimacy and naturalness of the house are enchanting.

Out in the grounds, the first sculpture to register is Moore's 'Upright Motive No 8', from 1955-6, a bony totem that seems to combine crucifix with stringed instrument and knuckle joint. This leads us down the garden to Rodin's sumptuous 'Cybele' (1905), a typically fragmentary figure (no head, only one arm), but with that sensual flow of movement that characterises so much of Rodin's work. Here he differs radically from Moore, who saw sculpture as a static mode, intended to convey weight and seriousness without the distractions of movement.

Yet it would be a great mistake to think that there is no vitality to Moore's solid forms. He may have renounced the overt evocation of movement but his work is full of sculptural rhythms and profound understanding of the human body, the very things he admired in Rodin. As he admitted, Rodin taught him a lot about the body, and particularly 'its asymmetry from every point of view'. Moore also quoted Rodin as saying that sculpture was the art of the hole and the bump, which sounds rather like a description of his own work.

Both artists were interested in metamorphosis, with bringing apparently unrelated forms together and investigating the relationship of sculpture to its surroundings.

Thus to see a group of Rodin's figures with an equal complement of Moore's is not just a chance to compare and contrast, but also to consider how each dealt with the human form in a landscape context. …

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