The Artist Statement: An Example: Henry Moore

Henry Moore was an amazing sculptor who was the most well known sculptor in England in the 20th Century. His work is semi-abstract inspired by landscape, bones, human features, shells, pebbles and more. Here is a link to more about him on Wikipedia:

I want to share with you excerpts from three interviews he did because I think they are perfect examples of his artist statement. They are from the catalog “Henry Moore at The Serpentine” from an exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery and Kensington Gardens, published in 1978 on the occasion of his 80th birthday. He meant for his work to be viewed in a garden setting. It’s at is best in the open air. Throughout the years his work evolved and you will see by the dates that as he changed direction his statements changed with it. I hope that you find this inspiring. Read on!

“When I first began doing sculpture about 1922, or so, I often worked direct in a piece of stone or wood, which might have been not a geometric shape, but just an odd random block of stone that one found cheaply in some stonemason’s yard, or a log of wood which was a natural shape, and then I’d make a sculpture out of that bit of material as I could, and therefore one would wait until the material suggested an idea.

Now a days I don’t work so much in that way, as I have an idea, or an idea comes to me, and then I find the material to make it in, and do that, the ideas that I am concerned with, I’ll produce several maquettes – sketches in plaster – not much bigger than one’s hand, certainly small enough to hold in one’s hand, so that you can turn them around as you shape them and work on them without having to get up and walk around them, and you have a complete grasp of their shape from all around the whole time. If the form, the idea, that you’re doing is much bigger than that, then to see what it’s like on the other side, you have to get up, walk around it, and this restricts your imagining and grasping what it’s like as you can when it’s small. But all the time that I am doing this small model, in my mind it isn’t the small model that I”m doing. It’s the big sculpture that I intend to do.” Henry Moore, 1964

” One doesn’t know really how ideas come. But you can induce them by starting in the far little studio without looking at a box of pebbles. Sometimes I may scribble some doodles, as I said, in a notebook; within my mind they may be a reclining figure, or perhaps a particular subject. Then with those pebbles, or the sketches in the notebook, I sit down and something begins. Then perhaps at a certain stage the idea crystallizes and then you know what to do, what to alter. You dislike what you’ve just made, and change it. At the end of a week you’re sitting in that nice little easy chair with the bench in front, and there’ll be probably some fifteen or so maquettes about 5 or 6 inches long, if it’s a reclining figure, or that height if it’s an upright. Then either I know that a few of those are ideas that I like, or that I don’t like any of them. If some are ones that I like, then I’ll do a variation on that idea, or I’ll change it if I’m critical. Done in that way the thing evolves. In my mind always though, in making these little ideas, is the eventual sculpture which may be ten or twelve times the size of the macquette that I hold in my hand” Henry Moore, 1960

“The human figure is what interests me most deeply, but I have found principles of form and rhythm from the study of natural objects such as pebbles, rocks, bones, trees, plants, etc.

Pebbles and rocks show nature’s way of working stone. Smooth, sea-worn pebbles show the wearing away, rubbed treatment of stone and principles of asymmetry.

Rocks show the hacked, hewn treatment of stone, and have jagged nervous blocked rhythm.

Bones have marvelous structural strength and hard tenseness of form, subtle transition of one shape into the next and great variety in section.

Trees (tree trunks) show principles of growth and strength of joints, with easy passing of one section into the next. They give the ideal for wood sculpture, upward twisting movement.

Shells show nature’s hard but hollow form (metal sculpture) and have a wonderful completeness of single shape.” Henry Moore 1933

Henry Moore was immediate and frank in his understanding and description of his work. He was also very articulate. He seemed not to know really what was happening but at the same time he did. He left it to chance and let the materials tell him what to do. That’s what he was saying. It’s almost as if you’re having a conversation with him. These are excerpts from interviews so in a way you are having a conversation with him. If you can be this frank and immediate in your writing you will have something extremely powerful. That kind of writing almost comes from the unconscious and you can tap into it by using the free writing exercise I mentioned in the previous post.

Here is a link to a video about Henry Moore on YouTube: