More is Moore: Modernist Sculptor’s Cabinet of Curiosities

Henry Moore: The whole of nature is an endless demonstration of shape and form. It always surprises me when artists try to escape from this.


                 One of Moore’s several studios

Henry Moore says of natural forms: Pebbles and rocks are nature’s way of working stone. Smooth, sea-worn pebbles show the wearing away, rubbed treatment of stone and principle of asymmetry. Rocks show the hacked , hewn treatment of stone, and have a jagged nervous block rhythm. Bones have a marvellous 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… Shells show nature’s hard but hollow form and have a wonderful completeness of single shape.IMG_4199

If you enter Henry Moore’s house in a quiet English village, you will find yourself in a modern cabinet of curiosities. Every surface and wall area of his sitting room a visual feast, a sculptor’s inspiration, a collector’s life’s work, a teacher’s aid, a treasure trove of shape and form.  In my brief encounter I spotted: a Narwal tusk, a malachite egg, petrified wood,  fossils galore, copious shells, a Cézanne, a Rodin, a Gothic marble angel, Romanesque Madonna and child, African masks, found-flint, an ostrich egg, a variety of bones, vertebrae …even a dolphin skull, Oceanic treasures, Pre-Colombian artefacts.   IT IS EXTRAORDINARY. (no photos allowed)

Henry Moore with his CollectionHenry Moore: The important thing is somehow to begin.

What a place to begin from… a cabinet of curiosities, a wunderkammer.

Frans_Francken_(II),_Kunst-_und_Raritätenkammer_(1636)as painted in 1636, by Frans Franken (detail below)Frans Francken detail

Edmund de Waal: Traditionally cabinets of curiosities attempt to map the world either spatially or temporally. In the spatial you include different bits from all over the world, as a way to represent the world to onlookers and yourself.  In the temporal you span history to map how we arrived at ‘now’.  Often it’s about knowledge and power.  But here an artist is using it for the creation  of his work, different bits of the world brought together in really interesting ways.  Here the world has collapsed in this space into a glorious jumble, for Moore to feel his way into energy fields between objects which are present here, it’s sort of an extension of Moore’s mind and he is the guiding force.

 Henry Moore Collection 2

Detail from Moore’s Maquette studio.

Henry Moore: All art is an abstraction to some degree.



Henry Moore: Art is the expression of imagination, not the reproduction of reality. 


Sculpture Photographs taken at Perry Green’s Henry Moore Foundation by me.

The Henry Moore Foundation

Gagosian Gallery and The Henry Moore Foundation collaboration book: Henry Moore – Wunderkammer – Origin of Forms …. In Moore’s Maquetee Studio, Richard Calvocoressi and  Edmund de Waal in conversation.  Any commissions or misinterpretation of De Waal are by me.

the BBC archive has Henry Moore at Home: A Private Collection from 1974 to view his house and collection.



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