Let’s start by looking at some wonderful archival material.
This article on Henry Moore appeared in Picture Post in May 1948 to coincide with the opening of the Open Air Exhibition of Sculpture at Battersea Park. It provides a fascinating glimpse into how Moore’s works were seen at the time. It highlights his controversial status as a British Modernist, but also the warmth people felt towards Moore on account of his shelter drawings which had clearly spoken to the British public during the war. The following PDF has scans of the original article. To make it easier to read, you will find a full transcription of the text and captions at the end of the PDF – keep scrolling down!
Note down anything you find interesting.
Now take a look at this souvenir catalogue from that first Battersea Park exhibition.
Browse the pictures of the sculptures included in the exhibition. You’ll notice some fairly traditional figurative pieces, alongside some more abstract, modernist pieces that would have been quite challenging at the time.
If you have the time and inclination to read the text, the foreword is interesting. Notice how Patricia Strauss, Chairman of the Parks Committee, talks about the aims of the exhibition in terms of enjoyment of, and access to, sculpture for ordinary Londoners. Eric Netwon’s essay for the catalogue is also very revealing. Like the Picture Post piece, you have a sense that he is trying to persuade a somewhat conservative British audience to embrace sculpture and modernism. It’s interesting to consider who he imagined his audience to be. Were they different to the readership that the Picture Post article was aimed at, I wonder?
Note down anything you find interesting.[TECH TIP: If you’re using a PC, you can read the embedded PDF on your screen: use the + symbol across the top of the frame to enlarge it. Click anywhere in the frame and roll the wheel on the top of your mouse to scroll up and down. Alternatively, you will find a ‘download’ link in the caption beneath the PDF.]
This lesson’s ‘Long Read’ comes from Robert Burstow, from the University of Derby. It’s well worth the time if you want to gain a deeper understanding of sculpture out-of-doors in the social and political context of the times.
As you’re reading, note down any new insights you gain. Consider, in particular, how Moore’s support of sculpture in the open air drew on his:
Coming back to the Sainsbury Centre, to what extent does a sculpture park like ours have its roots in the post-war, outdoor sculpture movement we’ve been considering in this lesson? I put this question to Calvin Winner, our head of collections, who has been instrumental in developing our campus sculpture park. I was curious to know to what extent Moore’s legacy had informed his own thinking, and what he felt were the key questions for us today as we consider ‘where next’ for the sculpture park.
As you’re listening, note down any additional thoughts, insights or questions that occur to you. At the end of this course, we’ll be asking you to share your thoughts with us on the relevance of outdoor sculpture today, and where next for our sculpture park, so start mulling.
(We’re a family-friendly gallery, so I hope you enjoy the sounds of our small visitors in the background.)
Write a short reflection, about 1,000 words, on Moore Out of Doors. Drawing on the notes you’ve made in this session, set out your own thoughts: Why was it important for Moore to show his work out of doors? And to what extent is it important that we can still encounter his work in the open air, today? You can write this as more of an essay, or choose a more informal style – more like a blog, perhaps. The choice is yours. The key thing is to capture your own ideas.
For more on the cultural, social and political context of Moore and modernist sculpture in natural settings, see:
Penelope Curtis and Fiona Russel’s “Henry Moore and the Post-War British Landscape: Monuments Ancient and Modern.” In Henry Moore: Critical Essays. Ed. Jane Beckett and Fiona Russell Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003, 125–41.
And Patrick Eyres and Fiona Russell’s Introduction to Sculpture and the Garden, Patrick Eyres and Fiona Russell, Eds. Routledge, 2006, 112-169.
For more on Henry Moore’s involvement/inclusion in the post-war London park sculpture exhibitions in the context of government support of the arts, see:
Jennifer Powell’s ‘Henry Moore and “Sculpture in the Open Air”: Exhibitions in London’s Park’ for Tate. https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/henry-moore/jennifer-powell-henry-moore-and-sculpture-in-the-open-air-exhibitions-in-londons-parks-r1151300
(The British Pathé Footage of the 1966 Battersea Park exhibition, mentioned by Powell, can be found on Youtube. Current links: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZJkva4Ux3E and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pESpPYzQMHA )
For a wider, and fascinating discussion, on the relationship between landscape, national identity, the body and ideals of citizenship, see David Matless’s Landscape and Englishness, Reaktion Books, 2016.