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Henry Moore at Harewood | Interview with Diane Howse, Countess of Harewood

 Henry Moore Stringed Figure (1938). Credit: Jonathan Turner

Henry Moore’s (1898-1986) fibreglass sculpture Large Reclining Figure (1984) is currently on display outside the entrance to Harewood House, and constitutes one of the most important themes of his prolific body of work.

He said of the piece: ‘The reclining figure gives most freedom compositionally and spatially. The seated figure has to have something to sit on. You can free it from its pedestal. A reclining figure can recline on any surface. It is free and stable at the same time ... also, it has repose, it suits me.’

Alongside this outdoor work is an exhibition in the Terrace Gallery of Moore artworks from the Arts Council Collection, with eleven bronzes and thirteen works on paper, spanning some fifty years. CUN’s Rich Jevons talks to Diane Howse, Countess of Harewood, about Henry Moore at Harewood.

Diane-Howse-Rich-Jevons Harewood-House credit-Amy-Cockshott
Diane Howse, Rich Jevons in front of Large Reclining Figure @ Harewood House. Credit: Amy Cockshott

Could you tell us about the connection between Henry Moore and Harewood?

My father-in-law [the 7th Earl of Harewood, George Lascelles] had a lifelong interest in the arts [including being Managing Director and then Chairman of the Board of the English National Opera and Artistic Director of the Edinburgh Festival] and was a friend of Henry Moore. They discussed doing an exhibition here, but time moved on and Moore died. So until now we haven’t managed to bring Moore to Harewood, so this exhibition is particularly poignant.

How did the siting of the Reclining Figure come about?

It all started with a conversation with Richard Calvocoressi CBE, Head of the Henry Moore Foundation, and a mutual interest in presenting Moore’s work at Harewood. This year the Tour de France starts in Yorkshire and comes through Harewood so it’s a perfect time to present one of Yorkshire’s most distinguished artists. The Reclining Figure is fibreglass and it comes apart in sections. It was designed specifically to tour and be exhibited, because obviously moving enormous bronzes is a phenomenally difficult process and immensely expensive. Whereas with the fibreglass it’s actually quite light and very cleverly segmented.

Henry Moore Standing Nude (1929)

The drawings combine the figurative and the abstract sides of his work, don’t they?

I love his drawings and I think he is a phenomenal draughtsman. In these drawings of shells and bones which he called Transformation drawings you really get this sense of form mutating. You can absolutely see how these things take shape. This exhibition is a huge period of work but it gives a real insight into how the work came about and the thought processes in a very concise way.

The sketches are very much working towards a three-dimensional purpose, aren’t they?

In many of his sketches the process of exploring and developing form is very evident. Making visual art, in terms of making a drawing or sculpture, is obviously a physical process which is very important. But there’s also a conceptual process, the working through and developing of the ideas, which we’re able to engage with through these sketches.

Henry Moore Head of a King (1952-53). Credit: Jonathan Turner

With Moore there don’t seem to be really separate periods in his work, do there?

This exhibition spans a substantial period of time and so reflects the development of his work through figuration and abstraction in both two and three dimensions. It also shows his sustained focus on a particular relationship with form, and certain consistent concerns such as drawing from life.

The show features some exquisite small bronzes, including Stringed Figure (1938), Working Model for Reclining Figure: Internal/External Form (1951) which relates to the outdoor sculpture, and appropriately given Harewood’s regal connections, Head of a King (1952-53).

Four Transformation drawings made by Henry Moore in the 1930s, held in the Henry Moore Foundation collection, can also be seen in the Henry Moore Institute’s Gallery 4 show, D’Arcy Thompson’s On Growth and Form until 17 August 2014.

Henry Moore at Harewood runs until 2 November 2014.