Page 20 - Studio International - March 1965
P. 20

                                                                                tural forms with which he expresses it.  His gentle, un­
                                                                                disturbed  and  undisturbing  art  embodies  and  reflects
                                                                                the  graceful  simplicity  of  our  landscape.  His  is  a
                                                                                message  of  calm  and  acceptance.  a  neutral  non­
                                                                                belligerence.  His  idols tell  us  that nature  is kind  and
                                                                                gentle. and also grand and aloof. It is an intimate God,
                                                                                friendly and revealing, yet at the same time mysterious
                                                                                and remote.  But always comforting.
                                                                                 One needs to look back over the European sculptural
                                                                                tradition to appreciate how unique is Moore's achieve­
                                                                                ment. From the Greeks onward, and from Michelangelo
                                                                                to  Rodin.  and  beyond,  sculpture  has  been  dynamic.
                                                                                thrusting, disturbing, energetic. One needs to go to the
                                                                                oriental  arts  to  find  an  equal  to  Moore's  powerful
                                                                                resignation.  And how perfectly he mirrors the  English
                                                                                landscape and character.
                                                                                 Moore's art is humanistic in the tradition of the English
                                                                                19th  century,  not a revolutionary gesture.  The human
                                                                                form remains of deep and moving significance to him
                                                                                and the miracle is that from so hackneyed a theme he is
                                                                                still able to devise original. meaningful variations. In so
                                                                                far as his art contains no expression of despair,  anger.
                                                                                disruption.  disapproval.  it is curiously aloof and out of
                                                                                tune with the times. This remoteness. this self-contained
                                                                                ethic, is part of Moore's Englishness-or Yorkshireness.
                                                                                 When it comes to the rest of English sculpture, there is
                                                                                difficulty in objective judgement since it  has  been so
                                                                                vastly  overpraised,  and  overplayed  by  our  state
                                                                                propaganda  machine.  Moore  is  both  the  glory  and
                                                                                curse  of  our  sculpture  because  with  his  immense
                                                                                success  and  reputation  he  has misled  the  public  and
                                                                                younger  artists  into  an  assumption  that  a  highly
                                                                                personal  solution  could  be  widely  imitated  and
                                                                                exploited.  What the  obituarist  in  the  New  Statesman
                                                                                wrote  of  T.  S.  Eliot  applies  to  Moore  in  another  art
                                                                                form:  'If  his  poetry  has  been  massively influential.  it
                                                                                has-like  that  of  all  major  poets-been  found  to  be
                                                                                no  use  whatsoever  as  a  model  for  the  aspiring
                                                                                poet.'  At  the  same  time.  with  so  important  a  figure
                                                                                in our midst, we have neglected other major sculptors
                                                                                and movements of our time. The same arrogance which
                                                                                caused  us  for  centuries  to  despise  and  distrust  the
                                                                                foreigner. still acts to exclude artistic achievements from
                                                                                abroad. It takes years before an important foreign artist
                                                                                is  afforded  hospitality  here.  unless  he  takes  up  resi­
                                                                                dence. although the case of Kokoschka belies even this.
                                                                                The  Whitechapel  Art  Gallery,  with  outside  help,  has
                                                                                managed to introduce leading American artists to Lon­
                                                                                don, but many  Europeans of equal and greater signifi­
                                                                                cance are hardly known.
                                                                                 This xenophobia leads to chauvinism and exaggera­
                                                                                tion  of  national  qualities.  It  is  not  coincidental  that
                                                                                Epstein and Gaudier-Brzeska. the two finest pre-Moore
                                                                                sculptors in  England,  had no influence. Their tempera­
                                                                                ments were so alien that they could not be accepted,
                                                                                let alone assimilated.  One cannot imagine the equiva­
                                                                                lent of an  Ecole de  Paris in  London; foreign artists are
                                                                                never  really  welcomed.  and  as in the  case of  Epstein
                                                                                are even persecuted for their difference.
                                                                                  Moore,  because  of  his  real  achievement,  and  also
                                                                                because of the ignorance of other major achievements
                                                                                abroad.  has  wielded  enormous  influence.  Just  how
                                                                                great one became aware at the last Open-air Sculpture
                                                                                Exhibition  at  Battersea  Park  in  1963.  Grouped  round
                                                                                Moore's  Standing  Figure,  a  typically  heroic.  majestic
                                                                                form.  anthropoid  yet  pantheistic.  were  the  works  of
                                                                                what might be termed the  English  Humanistic School.
                                                                                There was one of  Kenneth Armitage's playful conceits
   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25