Wednesday, 10 May 2017

A cup of tea with Henry Moore

Our friend Marjorie has just left. Our place has been her base,  as she's buzzed around  having all kinds of interesting encounters and experiences.   We don't see each other very often, since the Atlantic is in the way, so I was pleased to discover something new about her on this trip - that she is a longtime fan of the sculptor Henry Moore.

Well!    I'd just won a couple of tickets to an exhibition at the Henry Moore Studios and Gallery in Hertfordshire.   I hadn't been planning to use the tickets - to be honest, I didn't remember entering the contest. And although I knew of the Henry Moore sculpture garden in Wakefield, I didn't realise his home and studios had been so near to London.

But of course we took a trip.

Moore and his wife lived for decades in an ancient house at the end of a very rustic lane,  the type where two cars find it hard to pass. They modernised it piecemeal where necessary, but the interior's surprisingly domesticated, almost conventional in parts, with old fashioned cream telephones in almost every room and a kitchen that wouldn't win any prizes in a design contest.

However,  the fact that it's crammed with art books and natural and ethnographic curiosities gives the game away that artists lived here.  (Moore's wife was also an artist).   Then there are also the carpets in startling shades of orange and mauve, and curtains of the textiles he designed himself to remind you that this is not really the kind of home your mum or gran might have lived in....

Outside, arrays of cacti are grown in little greenhouses.


 An attractive, large-windowed visitor centre, cafe and shop has been built in the house's grounds, and offers views of the orchard, and the lawns where many of Moore's enormous sculptures are shown over several acres.

Moore was versatile, and although sculpture was his main love, he also designed tapestries. Some are displayed in a 16th century barn, copied from his small sketches in charcoal and watercolour. Although the drawings are deliberately tiny, the tapestries are huge, and use endless variations of colours and textures and different types of yarn to reinterpret the subtle shadings of the tiny originals. Moore said that he loved the change which the weaving process made to his drawings, and it does give a new understanding to the works.   I looked at them for a long time.

I always like to show photos of what I am talking about, particularly with art, but unfortunately photos aren't allowed inside the house, studios or display areas, and I can't find any online which illustrate this wonderful quality of the textiles. Even the site's own image gallery  doesn't show it.

Still, explore the site if you want more photos and information, take my word that the studios and galleries were interesting, and let me share with you my own view of what I was allowed to photograph on a quiet, grey, overcast day. I'll show you the cowslips and the apple blossom just finishing in the orchard, the sheep whose shapes so inspired Moore grazing in the adjoining fields, and the sculptures seeming at home in their surroundings....



Cowslips in the orchard. 



 There's something alarming, almost devilish about this, at least to me.


 I don't like thinking too intellectually about visual art, so I was glad to have the chance to see these works in real life to see what Moore was trying to do. It's so thought provoking and interesting both at large scale and in close up; every line can make you think of something - or several things.  

Here, I saw his house framed through a statue based on a reclining figure.  I was standing beside what would be the left thigh, with the left leg... see the characteristic shape of an ankle on the left? You do feel that the sculptures are alive, in an alien way, and that's part of his genius.


Moore was conventionally trained, and very gifted at more orthodox work. I did snatch one picture, showing a drawing he did when at art school - at present the centre has a show about the artistic influences on his work.  Even in this very different and far more conventional style, his talent and individualism shows.  Don't you feel you might have met this gentleman, so vivid and alive with that determined set of his jaw?    

Or, on second thoughts, is it his hair that bulges out at the jaw? Or a swelling on his face?  And those stubborn eyes, staring steadfastly upwards - look closely and you'll see they're not set naturally in his face. One looks upwards the other does not.   What is Moore really conveying about this man, apparently so naturalistic and alive?   


The picture below is one of my favourite sculptures of those on display. A bit like vertebrae from this angle

Textured like bone. 


And I liked that you could walk inside this huge female figure. 



Here it is from a distance.


I see in this sculpture a thoughtful face with its chin on its hand.  T. didn't see that at all.  What do you see?


Having spent so long looking at sculpture, I began to see it myself in the nature around me. 


And so, back to the visitor centre. We reached it just as it started to rain... 


... for a nice cup of tea.  I believe Henry Moore also enjoyed a nice cup of tea,  since his house certainly contained a teapot out in the conservatory that was seemingly ready for use!





Henry Moore Studios & Gardens
Dane Tree House
Perry Green
Herts
SG10 6EE
T: +44 (0)1279 843 333

47 comments:

  1. A lovely post Jenny reminding of the times I used to visit when we lived in Hertfordshire - there was no cafe then - I can also see a face in profile in that statue too - a mans face.

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  2. I have been to Henry Moore's Sculpture garden in Wakefield, as my brother lives in Barnsley. His work is fascinating.

    Ohh is that custard tarts I see there? One of my favourites.

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  3. Sometimes it tales a visitor to get us out to see things nearby that we otherwise might have passed on. It looks like a very interesting and pretty place.

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  4. Oh Jenny, this looks like loads of fun. I would be more interested in the house than the sculpture, to be honest. To see the drawings and the textiles. I wish you had been able to shoot photos of the textiles -- they sound magnificent. I had no idea he was versatile in this area.

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  5. Oh my gosh, I enjoyed these images. Thanks!

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  6. Thanks for that...I wish I could see the textiles, though.
    Still, I am making a list of things I want to do - rather than must do - when I next get to the U.K. and as this is within reach of London it is now on my list.

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  7. Not a huge fan of over-sized sculpture, but his is interesting. I do see the face with chin on hand.

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  8. Good morning! Thanks so much for such an interesting post, I always learn new wonderful things. Your photos are perfect and those statues are of course a favorite of mine!

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  9. Wonderful post. The mix of nature and the art is a good blend. You have a good eye.
    I see an old man up to his knuckles stuffing his face with food.

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  10. Yes, I saw a face leaning in hand, too!
    Looks like you had a wonderful trip. :)

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  11. What a perfect setting for Moore's sculptures! The natural setting allows one to absorb and contemplate. At first glance, when I saw the photo of that faraway sculpture on the hill, I thought it was some type of farm equipment.
    I really like that cactus garden in the greenhouse. And I'm ready for a cup of tea!

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  12. Your friend was so lucky you had the tickets ! Envious.
    Did you see where the sheep rub against the Sculptures and heave burnished them smooth ? They have changed the feeling of them I think.
    I would love to roam the green hills and come across a sculpture. And yes I saw the face.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. That is an interesting observation. I thought the textures of all of them were worthy of note, and Moore did like his work to be influenced by outside factors.

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  13. Well, that winning of the tickets was a nice bit of serendipity, wasn't it? A beautiful place, thank you for sharing it.

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    1. Glad you liked it, and I was pleased at the serendipity - I rarely experience it.

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  14. What a great place to visit Jenny. I really enjoy Henry Moore's sculpture, and these are great examples. I do like the devil on the hill, which is certainly striking. And I can see the face resting chin on hand too. They are wonderfully curved and tactile looking. I never knew what cowslips looked like - another thing only known from books. Very pretty!

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    1. Thanks, Patricia. Cowslips are charming, they remind me a bit of primroses but grow less thickly so seem more fairylike

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  15. Oooh - I love Henry Moore - I must find a way to get there!

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    1. We had a pretty drive around the area, too.

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  16. Fab post,Jenny. I particularly liked the sculpture of a thoughtful face with its chin on its hand - I could see it, but when I looked back I could see another face as well, one looking away and the other looking right at me.

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    1. Yes, when I looked closely at it I wondered how I could have seen it as a face, and then when I stepped back, there the face was. This fascinating ambiguity and interest (having several equally good ways to view his work) is one reason I realised how talented he really was.

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  17. What a fascinating place. Lovely grounds and some really "different" sculptures.

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  18. Replies
    1. We bought a mug with a Moore drawing of a sheep on it.

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  19. What a wonderful day...you post brings it all back vividly. Thank you so much!

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    1. I'm so glad for the serendipity that led to you mentioning it and me having the tickets :)

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  20. I've never been a fan of Henry Moore, but it's good that his old home and studio is open to the public and a lot of his sculpture is on view. I do rather like the surreal sculpture on top of the hill. From that distance, it looks a bit Dali-ish.

    It's sad how many famous male artists had wives or girlfriends who were equally talented artists but never got the same public acclaim.

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    1. I agree with you about women artists finding it harder, but in fact I do think Moore was a genius, and perhaps it was better for him to have an artist who was not a genius to live with ! Genius is not always an easy thing....

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  21. How absolutely wonderful! I'll never get to experience it in person, but your post and photos certainly bring it so close to the real thing, it's palpable.

    A lovely array of cacti, too. My late brother would've loved them!

    Thanks for the tour, Jenny. :)

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    1. Thanks, Lee. I can see why people like to grow cacti, there is such a variety about them!

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  22. Thank you for sharing this wonderful venue and photos. I did see the face that you mentioned, and would so enjoy a visit there if only a pesky large ocean wasn't in the way...Happy weekend.

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    1. Yes, it's a nice place to visit on a quiet and slightly foggy Spring day.

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  23. Yes, I saw the face too! Of course, I see a face in most everything!

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    1. yes, I think we humans are programmed to do this in some way ! :)

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  24. How lucky for you to have won free tickets just in time for your friend's visit!

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  25. I hope this finds you and yours doing well. Jabberwock and Nurse Mabel and Her Amazing Fleas have been added to our new Site Directory, SiteHoundSniffs.com, The linked header for Jabberwock is under All, Literary and the United Kingdom. Nurse Mabel and Her Amazing Fleas is under All, Literary and the United Kingsom. In essence, SiteHoundSniffs is just a grander version of an individual’s blogroll or favorite sites list. Please email me at jerryebeuterbaugh@sitehoundsniffs.com if you want more details or have the sites removed. I am sorry for failing to find a way to contact you privately. The contact form on Jabberwock is missing the SEND button.

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    1. Thank you Jerry! It's a great site and I am honoured to be on it. And wow, contact form on Jabberwock has gone wrong? Thanks for the heads up.

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  26. I love big abstract sculptures. And what a gorgeous setting!

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  27. Thank you Jerry! It's a great site and I am honoured to be on it. And wow, contact form on Jabberwock has gone wrong? Thanks for the heads up.

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  28. Dear Jenny - I’ve heard of Henry Moore; I know him by name only, but now that I read this post, I think I could get the nature of his sculptures. Honestly I’m not so much fan of modern abstract art, but I like sculptures in the landscape and your interpretation or impression through senses made me feel interested in those of Henry Moore’s. Yes, something on the hill top look kind of scary and I see a woman’s profile contemplating with her chin on her hand. A cup of tea at that conservatory surrounded by the greenery is so appealing.

    Thank you for both the comment on my latest post and the email in which you contained various interesting things. Hope you also read my email dated April 2 (in reply to your Feb. 27 email.) Enjoy the rest of your favorite month.

    Yoko

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  29. Interesting, Jenny. Shame about the photos - I would have liked to have seen the inside, particularly after your description - though that was pretty good! Must confess I know next to nothing about Moore and would need to think about some of the images. i don't think his type of art is for people in a hurry. I was intrigued by some of the statues, though; I will try harder, I promise!

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  30. i enjoyed reading about your favorite artist my friend!
    this is pleasure to spend sometime with people that inspire you with their uniqueness and wonders.
    i felt abstract touch in his art which requires a waving long stare and profound way of thinking may be.
    i liked the photos you were able to share .

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  31. This is an interesting post about a place I would probably never would have visited. I'm particularly drawn to Moore's sculptures.

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  32. The closest I’ve been to a Henry Moore sculpture was in Gernika. Pretty impressive! I didn’t know Moore was a textile artist too.

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  33. I'd love to go there! Being quite a Moore fan, it would be marvellous to see his work in context. What a great day out and lovely photos as always. Thanks, Jenny!

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