It was with trepidation that, while in London, I visited a major indoor retrospective of Henry Moore at the Tate Britain 22 years after his death. I was aware of Moore’s weight, touted as the most important British sculptor of the 20th century, and had seen his huge pieces in some European cities. Still, I didn’t know very much about the sequence of Moore’s artistic phases or their background. There was something I liked in Moore’s modernistic style and restrained formality. The curator’s stated intent was to revisit Moore and for the first time expose some of the artist’s less known sinister edge and raw sexuality.
Despite Moore’s dark side seeming rather normal today, I was quite satisfied with the curators’ choices and presentation and impressed by both the breadth and depth of Moore’s work. Moore’s mastery of the medium, whether stone, wood, plaster, or bronze, also amazed me. I was transported by Moore’s work back in the eclectic 30s by some of his Picasso-like forms and into the dark wartime by his very expressive drawings from the London shelters during bomb raids. In the final room of his huge elm reclining figures I felt like when I was in front of
After my visit I read some negative reviews about the Moore exhibit and his work. It was clear to me that those authors, perhaps because of their younger age, viewed Moore’s work in a limited way and failed to place it in its context. While Moore’s sculptures and drawings might not be as animated as those by other masters, his passion for his work and engagement with the surrounding world definitely come through. Moore’s modernistic and abstract work is probably less approachable than more realistic works. As for me, I came away from the Tate exhibit knowing myself a bit better, feeling richer, more erudite, exhilarated, and lucky to have gazed at and been touched by Moore’s figures.