Home » All posts » Women, babies and the hills of Yorkshire: the curves that inspired Henry Moore

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Before giving birth to their daughter, Mary, in 1946, Henry Moore’s wife, Irina, suffered several miscarriages. These private events, along with the war’s shredding of relationships, focused the sculptor’s mind more sharply than ever on life, family and the human body.

Wander around new Henry Moore exhibition in Leeds and you’ll see how much of his work falls broadly within two categories.

First, sculptures of women and small children. They capture the fact and necessity of attachment so powerfully, attachment so solid and permanent that perhaps only stone and bronze is up to the job, but without a drop of syrup. The mother-and-child theme was, for Moore, a universal subject ‘from the beginning of time’.

But his main theme is of reclining figures. Some people suggest that the cliffs, caves and valleys of these reflect Moore’s Yorkshire landscape. (They make me think more of neck cramp than of moors.) The exhibition is dominated by two massive reclining figures carved out of elm; the light slides deliciously around the warm curves as you walk around. I saw them in artificial light, thanks to an invitation to the preview courtesy of the Culture Vultures, so I need to go back and see what happens in daylight.

There are later paintings, too, many of them both grimy and grim. Some are of coal-miners, cramped and sunless (their lives, too). And there are the war-time paintings of crowds sheltering from air-raids in the underground. Horizontal figures still but this time powerless, cadaverous and lost. Never mind fertility and the promise of life – this is reclining, coffin-style.

The exhibition is at Leeds Art Gallery until 12 June.

1 Comment

  1. Hello. Lovely to meet you on Friday. I enjoyed this post, this sounds like a great exhibition. I really like Henry Moore but I had no idea of the background to his work.
    Love your blog header, do you do the illustration?

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