March 6, 2015
“Henry Moore: Wunderkammer—Origin of Forms” explores the origins and processes behind Moore’s sculptures by recreating his maquette studio at Perry Green—now home to The Henry Moore Foundation—at Gagosian Davies Street, London. His Wunderkammer of natural stones, shells, bones, animal skulls, and other found objects are presented alongside the drawings and sculptural maquettes that they inspired, demonstrating the metamorphosis from nature to sculpture, from inanimate object to human or animal form, that was the impetus of his oeuvre. Here, Richard Calvocoressi, Director of The Henry Moore Foundation and the exhibition's curator, elaborates on the important role of these specimens within Moore's process.
This is the second show on which the Henry Moore Foundation has collaborated with the Gagosian Gallery in London. The first, three years ago, contained just seven big bronzes in the very large gallery near King’s Cross.
The present show, in the much smaller gallery in Davies Street, contains no less than 220 works, including flints, pebbles, shells and tree roots from Moore’s maquette studio, not to mention a rhinoceros skull, an alarm clock and a pot of Johnson’s Baby powder—they all have to be listed and insured!
The appearance and impact of the two exhibitions could not be more different. The first was spacious, with a few over-life-size sculptures that looked bigger than they do when shown out of doors, as they usually are. The current show is crowded with hundreds of small objects. But there is a connection.
The word ‘monumental’ is often used to mean big, large-scale, when in fact monumentality can attach to the smallest of objects, as sculptors like Moore and Giacometti recognized. What Moore chose to enlarge and what he chose to leave at the maquette stage can be seen in this exhibition.
The other quality which the exhibition is intended to bring out is sheer formal inventiveness—the sculptural ideas that continued to pour forth from Moore’s mind even when he was in his eighties and in declining health. Such a large group of late drawings has never been exhibited before now, showing how Moore drew in a relaxed, simplified way for its own sake—from nature but also from his imagination and memory—and also experimented with rich and subtle color effects.
The title Wunderkammer reflects the influence on Moore of nineteenth-century display methods—the kind of crowded showcases that inspired him as a student in the British Museum and Natural History Museum. These affected the way he worked in his maquette studio, surrounded by found objects, and the way he organised his ethnography collection in his house.
Richard Calvocoressi is Director of the Henry Moore Foundation