MACLEAN'S REVIEWS

HENRY, THE MOORE OF HOGLANDS

He’s the world's greatest sculptor — but the yapping Philistines still irk him

MARK NICHOLS July 23 1966
MACLEAN'S REVIEWS

HENRY, THE MOORE OF HOGLANDS

He’s the world's greatest sculptor — but the yapping Philistines still irk him

MARK NICHOLS July 23 1966

HENRY, THE MOORE OF HOGLANDS

MACLEAN'S REVIEWS

He’s the world's greatest sculptor — but the yapping Philistines still irk him

HENRY MOORE is a thickly built man of slightly less than average height. He has strong-looking shoul-ders, large hands and a generally unsmiling face made up of stubby, North-of-England features. At 68 he looks more like a man in his early 50s. In the British press, after years of hostility, he is often nowadays called the greatest living sculptor in the world.

To visit Henry Moore it is necessary to travel north from London by train for an hour into the rolling farm country of Hertfordshire to a little town called Much Hadham. From there it is another twelve miles or so by infrequent country bus and then on foot along a twisting narrow road to a sprawling arrangement of farms and homes called Perry Green. It is possible to pick out Moore’s house, Hoglands, from the road. It is not marked by name (as are most of the houses around it), but on the neat lawn in front of the converted 16th-century farm cottages there stands an odd, man-like figure in weathered bronze made of geometric shapes out of which something seems to be looking.

In October, Henry Moore’s controversial 2’/i-ton bronze sculpture Three-Way Piece No. 2 (“Archer”) is scheduled to be shipped from the Netherlands (where it is on exhibit at Sonsbeek Park near Arnhem) to To-

ronto to become the centrepiece of Nathan Phillips Square at the City Hall. Since 1940, it is at Hoglands that the sculptural development of Moore, leading up to the remarkable piece destined for Toronto, has mainly taken place.

Hoglands itself, littered almost casually from the main living room to the wide lawns behind with a fortune in sculpture large and small, reflects the personality of the man and his work. The seventh child of Yorkshire coal miner Raymond Spencer Moore, Henry Moore is today a member of the Order of Merit, a Companion of Honor, the holder of countless honors from countries around the world and more than comfortably wealthy. He has achieved all this by pursuing his artistic development relentlessly against a background of controversy and, frequently, vituperation. But the man continues to look and talk like an impassive Yorkshire artisan, a skilled carpenter or a highly competent plumber. He has an abhorrence of discussing his work, a strong aversion to “explaining” himself. The work is there to explain itself.

Moore’s sculpture began with an emphasis on the human form, frequently the reclining female body. Although he has veered away from time to time into highly abstract realms, he returns repeatedly to this form and to the seated mother and child and family groups. The history of this development is reflected in one of Moore’s many studios where rows of shelves are given over to maquettes, the small white plaster models which are the sculptor’s equivalent of a painter’s sketches. The maquettes, mostly no more than four or five inches in size, represent the original conceptions of sculptures going back 20 or 30 years. “Archer” itself began in this way, a small plaster “sketch.”

Moore’s infrequent statements about his w'ork are far simpler than those of critics. A pock-marked and distorted figure vaguely resembling a human head would at first appear to be an abstraction with accidental or perhaps ironic human characteristics. But Moore himself refers to it offhandedly as literally “an ugly, cadaverous head.” Of his controversial figures with “holes” (the prototype of every cartoon joke dealing with modern art), Moore has said that his basic

love of carving in stone has kept him attempting things which arc not easy in that medium. “The line of least resistance is to keep the stone a solid block . . . but when tunneling through the stone nothing is more exciting than when the tunnels meet, when you really get through.”

But even Moore's simplicity is misleading. Toronto’s “Archer” for example, is not a literal piece. “It is not called that because it was meant to look like an archer,” he explains, “but because of the tensions and movement that occur in it.” The

piece in fact is simply Three-Way Piece No. 2, a powerful and precise plaster-to-bronze composition.

Moore's garden stretches in a wide, boomerang shape the length of several football fields over slightly undulating ground. At the farthest end stand a group of studios. In one room stands a group of pieces including the original bronze model of the “Archer” which first caught the eye of the late architect Viljo Reveil. It is one of three related pieces about three feet high. Moore recalls his first conversations with Reveil, a personal friend, when as early as 1961 the architect of the new Toronto City Hall proposed that Moore might design a cenotaph for the City Hall square. Moore recalls that at the time he thought it was unlikely he would be able to do such a work. “It is difficult,” he says, “for a sculptor to think in terms of something like the idea of a city, or of ‘Justice’ or ‘Truth.’

“It is like a novelist being asked to write a book to illustrate the poor working conditions in an industry. An architect must work within the limits which are set and with the materials at hand. But a sculptor needn't be limited this way.” Moore agreed, however, to try out various ideas. In the meantime Reveil was ill for some time. When he returned to Hoglands in 1964 Moore had no cenotaph, but a selection of pieces including “Archer.” which Reveil immediately decided was the right one.

“We talked about this,” says Moore, “discussing the size which

would be right for the City Hall, and then Reveil left for home. He left here on a Friday and on Monday I read of his death of a heart attack in The Times.”

Moore is extremely reticent about the controversy that ensued in Toronto. The quarrel was basically about the cost of the figure—$120,000 — but it also involved echoing charges of philistinism and phoniness which all must have seemed wearily familiar to Moore. (The public subscription fund launched by Mayor Phillip Givens raised about $100,000. After the intervention of Canadian photographer Roloff Beny, Moore agreed to contribute the remaining $20,000.)

Moore has seen a lifetime of antagonism and gradual acceptance of his work. He has had his work painted, defaced, even tarred and feathered in a German town. Prince Philip once said a piece of his bronze work looked like “the gallstone of a monkey.” New controversies are no surprise to him. At 68 he has gained wide acceptance, but his critics remain.

Of the piece in Toronto, Moore hopes that it will be possible to erect it on a revolving base so that its position can be changed—“not every day, but perhaps once a month to give it a new perspective.” He hopes also that its bronze patina will be kept in its present condition for “at least two or three years.” After that he will be content to let it acquire the natural green “weathered” look his bronzes take on. For Moore, the most exciting aspect of the “Archer’s” location in Nathan Phillips Square is that it will be on view from a variety of levels and distances. For this is one of the guiding principles of Moore’s art: that a work can be seen and responded to in the daily life of people “all round, not just from one side.” MARK NICHOLS