Henry Moore has had an insurmountable influence on contemporary art. A new exhibition at Mayfair gallery Connaught Brown — Henry Moore: Influences and Influenced — sheds a light on the artist’s influences, and the artists who have subsequently drawn upon his approach for their own practice. With many of his works appearing in major galleries and auctions in recent months Connaught Brown’s retrospective is timely, and so appropriately the scope of his influence both past and present is represented here. While the renewed interest in Moore’s work has of course permeated interest in the work of Barbara Hepworth and Paul Nash, the exhibition does not stop there — Connaught Brown presenting a wide-reaching exploration of work in different media, from Naum Gabo’s mathematically precise works, to an anamorphic, surrealistic painting by Tristram Hillier.
There is a sense of reciprocity that weaves its way throughout the show, allowing each artist to intertwine with the overall theme, while maintaining their own artistic integrity. A number of the exhibited artists were members of Unit 1, a group of Modernist painters and sculptors led by Paul Nash in the 1930s. Barbara Hepworth, one of Moore’s close friends and rivals, was also a member. Two of Hepworth’s works are shown, including a maquette for a larger sculpture which is exhibited in St. Ives. Following the outbreak of the Second World War, St Ives became a haven for artistic creation, spearheaded by Hepworth and her partner, Ben Nicholson. Naum Gabo moved to the town to join the pair, helping to establish a new bastion of abstract art.
Hepworth and Gabo’s practice sought to move away from depictions of the human form — in contrast to Moore, who’s name has become synonymous with the reclining figure. Gabo’s Linear Construction in Space No. 1, from 1965, is a particular highlight of the show, foreseeing a change in the language of sculpture long before its time — it is a highly exacting work that appears to bridge a gap between art and science. William Turnbull’s Metamorphic Venus 3, from 1982, draws upon the traditional sculptural form of the bust, abstracting it to create a captivating abstract work. In contrast to this work, and indeed the beauty of Moore’s forms, is the work Shattered Head, created by Eduardo Paolozzi in 1956. The piece appears as a reaction to the horrors of the Second World War. The surface of the form is broken, with light peaking through fissures in the cast. The affect of this work, when placed alongside more perfect surfaces, is one of discomfort, that appears to draw upon the horrors of war. Paolozzi was a member of the “Geometry of Fear” movement after the war, a group which drew upon post-apocalyptic themes of damage, in direct contrast the purity and serenity one can find in the work of Moore. Also displayed is Anthony Gormley’s Sublimate, from 2008, an etching that appears reminiscent of the fractured surfaces of Shattered Head, displaying a solitary figure looking upon an isolated horizon line. Despite the simplicity of the piece, there is a foreboding atmosphere, a sense of uncertainty that is generated by the figure’s gaze.
Among the other non-sculptural works, is Object on a beach no.1 by Tristram Hillier; a painting that appears to sit between the work of Moore’s generation in Britain, and the practice of infamous surrealist artists, most notably that of Salvador Dalí. The figure that the work captures is an anthropomorphic merger of man and ship, as rigging tangles around an overarching form. The figure remains tethered by a large ships anchor that foregrounds the image, as a seagull flies freely above. In the distance, one can glimpse at an indistinct ruin. Sitting alongside the aforementioned work of Gormley, and the fractured forms of Paolozzi’s sculpture, the relation compounds a sense of unknowing. In contrast, perhaps, to the constructivist optimism of Gabo’s forms, these works bring with them a sense of precarious humanity.
The links that have been drawn between the artists visualise a complex web of influences, integrating a sense of friendly competition and a desire to move beyond the boundaries of art practice. Carrying forward into the present day, also included in the show is Sarah Luca’s Nud 16 from 2009, a work that plays with the materiality of sculpture itself, through the use of stuffed tights. There is an inherent humour to this piece, a subversion of more common sculptural materials — the result is an inherently organic form. Lucas has recently contributed to the design of the Franz West exhibition currently showing at the Tate Modern, another artist for whom Moore was a key influence. The display of Nud 16, upon a stack of cinderblocks, is mirrored in Lucas’ presentation of West’s sculpture.
Henry Moore: Influences and Influenced provides a highly intriguing introspective view of the work of Henry Moore, and the subsequent reactions to his practice, while also displaying the artists foundational to the development of his own work. As well as more familiar relations, such as the those drawn between Moore and Hepworth, the show draws together other related names to great affect, some lesser known than others, helping to bring a sense of artistic community to the forefront. As well as Moore’s flowing sculptural figures, the show demonstrates the multifarious styles, and influences associated with artists who have defined the art historical canon.
Henry Moore: Influences and Influenced is on display from 3 May – 15 June at Connaught Brown, 2 Albemarle Street, London, W1S 4HD. For more information, visit Connaught Brown.
Words by Charlie Dixon.
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