THE MYSTERIES of the Yorkshire landscape were a constant source of inspiration for Henry Moore, the radical sculptor who rebelled against traditions and went on to become one of the most celebrated British artists of the 20th century.
Now, almost 30 years after his death, this deep-rooted connection with the land is celebrated in a new exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP), which offers a “fresh perspective” on Moore’s work, and includes never before seen personal items loaned to the park by his only daughter, Mary Moore, who helped curate part of the show.
Moore was born in the West Yorkshire mining community of Castleford, and it was his love of the open spaces and the landscape around him that inspired him.
The exhibition, Henry Moore: Back to the Land explores the artist’s profound relationship with land, something which was fundamental to his practice and fuelled his visual vocabulary. More than 120 drawings and sculptures make up the collection, set among the beautiful landscape of the Bretton Estate, which Moore first visited with his daughter Mary in 1979, two years after YSP was founded by Peter Murray.
He became a founding patron, and was committed to showing his work in the open air, in particular in the rolling hills of the former Deer Park.
YSP’s senior curator Dr Helen Pheby, said that during that first visit, Moore was so impressed that he promised that he would always have work there, especially in the Park.
“He loved that there were sheep there,” she said. “He thought sheep - rather than cows, for example, or even people - were exactly the right scale to show his work.
“He was really inspired by what Peter had started.”
Dr Pheby worked with Mary Moore and Anita Feldman, a former curator of the Henry Moore Foundation, which is based at his former Hertfordshire home, Perry Green, to put together the collection, which includes works in the inside Undergound Gallery, with each piece drawing on Moore’s connection to the land.
“We were tasked with having a fresh approach on Moore’s work, which was a challenge, but having the inside space enabled us to show the drawings and plasters that aren’t often on display,” Dr Pheby said.
For Dr Phelby, who grew up in Wakefield, the show, which is the first major exhibition of Moore’s work at YSP, “feels like a homecoming.”
Moore grew up in a home where some of the first mining union meetings were held, and his family believed that anyone had a right to better life, and all it took was an educations.
“Despite his success he never became part of the establishment, and even refused a knighthood. He never forgot his roots, he celebrated them,” she said. “The show feels like it could’ve been made last week, the work has never dated.
“There are a few surprises - for example he got really excited when felt tip pens were invented, and did lots and lots of drawing in them. Mary’s contribution has been invaluable, these are things you’ll never get the chance to see again. It has been a real privilege to have them.”
Henry Moore: Back to the Land, runs until September.