On Easter Monday my husband and I set off to The Henry Moore Foundation which is in the tiny village of Perry Green in rural Hertfordshire. There is a new exhibition being staged there called Becoming Henry Moore explaining how he became to be a sculptor.
The village is down tiny lanes and didn’t appear to be on our old, erratic sat nav but we found it through the signs and common sense. They must be making money at the Henry Moore Foundation as there was a flashy purpose built visitor centre with cafe. It was tastefully done and fitted into the landscape. It snugged next to the old farmhouse where Henry Moore spent the last decades of his life.
There is a permanent exhibition and then a vast array of huge sculptures dotted around the grounds. They are treated with indifference by the many straggly sheep grazing all around them. The outdoor exhibits are solid and impressive. There is a common theme of reclining woman. They suggest other sculptor’s work of the same era. They all went for that huge scale and bold shape. I am no expert in art but I love them. I love art. I love the way there is no need for words. You just feel the work. I was told at school I was no good at art, my efforts usually laughed at by friends and family so I never attempt any now but I am so interested in it and how it makes me feel. I like modern work, work that unsettles or suggests. I like art that plays with form and texture. Henry Moore certainly does it for me. I like his sturdy buxom women. Angelina Jolie they ain’t.
There are other exhibitions in barns dotted around the huge grounds. He must have made some serious money in his day to buy this pile which surprises me as I always think of sculptors beavering away in garrets, living in messy poverty with cheap red wine and cheaper whores. Not so Henry Moore who passed his time in this ever so respectable part of Hertfordshire in married bliss. The tranquility is slightly marred by planes from Standstead Airport but you can’t have everything.
Becoming Henry Moore is a temporary exhibition about Moore’s early life and how he was inspired. I was thrilled to learn he was a Northern boy, a miner’s son from Castleton. He had great talent from an early age of course. He was entwined with the landscape of the north, the rock, evident in the work. He went to art college but became a teacher in line with the wishes of his father who thought being an artist was not really a career. This is an attitude I am familiar with in the working class where proper jobs are always the thing. Bravely, he gave up teaching pretty soon and pursued his art career being lucky enough and talented enough to attract scholarships and funding to pursue courses and get started. He was influenced by the other modern artists of the day like Picasso but also by ethnic and tribal art. There are plenty of examples of these in the exhibition. Later he became one of Britain’s best known sculptures and received commissions from all over the world which made him pretty wealthy. Overall a success story!
I felt inspired by his life. I am also a northern girl and also became a teacher. Of course I don’t have Moore’s talent but I do have a hankering to be a good writer. I stayed in teaching too long and I should have been like Moore and followed my heart to write. Now weary and battle scarred I think I could still devote myself to my writing as he did to his art and stop worrying about jobs, work, money and all that rubbish our heads are stuffed with.
I felt uplifted. Thanks Henry!
PS The cafe does good cakes.