Get in touch with sculptures at new hands-on exhibition at Henry Moore Studios and Gardens in Perry Green
Visitors will be encouraged to touch the sculptures on show as part of a new exhibition at Henry Moore Studios and Gardens curated by an acclaimed artist and author.
The lifting of Covid-19 restrictions on museums and galleries on Monday (May 17) means the collection, called This Living Hand: Edmund de Waal Presents Henry Moore, at Moore's former home at Perry Green, near Much Hadham – which explores the role of touch and iconography of the hand in the world-renowned sculptor's work – can finally be enjoyed by visitors.
Curator Edmund de Waal said: "This exhibition was supposed to open in March 2020. In the past year, our hands and our experience of touch have taken on a whole new meaning. To be able to invite people to encounter Moore's sculptures through touch is now even more extraordinary.
"Moore believed in the importance of tactile experience in enjoying sculpture, and I hope visitors will enjoy this unique opportunity.
"In this exhibition we see a life of reflection on how hands become sculpture. And returned to what knowledge our own hands hold."
To enable visitors to touch the sculptures safely, a special new element has been introduced to the exhibition – a stone washbasin made by de Waal for visitors to pause and cleanse their hands before entering the gallery. It is inspired by a Japanese tsukubai, traditionally located at an entrance for visitors to purify themselves by the ritual washing of hands.
The exhibition will also include a series of benches in Horton stone made by de Waal for visitors to pause and reflect.
Throughout his career Moore emphasised the importance of experiencing sculpture through touch and returned to the hand as a subject in his sculpture and drawings, studying its expressive power and symbolic values as Auguste Rodin and Michelangelo, two of his favourite artists, had done before him.
This Living Hand will present a selection of original sculptures and other objects which visitors will be invited to touch, as well as a group of drawings and sculptural works charting Moore's interest in the hand as a subject, from the monumental bronzes King and Queen (1952-53) and Reclining Figure: Hand (1979) to powerful studies Moore made of his own and others' hands.
Sebastiano Barassi, head of collections and exhibitions, said: "The Henry Moore Foundation is delighted to collaborate with Edmund de Waal on this project, which we believe will have a profound impact on the understanding of Henry Moore's place in the history of art and highlight his continuing relevance for contemporary practice.
"The authoritative voice of a world-class artist and author like de Waal will no doubt play an important part in shaping new and original narratives around Moore and introduce fresh ways of looking at his work. Edmund's wonderful talent for storytelling through objects and his unrivalled visual sensitivity put him in a unique position to curate a visually tantalising show and write eloquently about this most intriguing subject."
Moore is widely recognised as one of the most important artists of the 20th century. He came to Perry Green in 1940 with his Ukrainian-born wife Irina to escape the Blitz in London as his career began to take off.
They rented part of a 17th-century farmhouse called Hoglands, and the rural idyll served not only as a refuge from the German Luftwaffe but as a source of inspiration, influencing the scale and scope of many of Moore's most acclaimed works. The natural surroundings stimulated his creativity – from the rolling landscape itself to the rocks and orchards found throughout the estate.
Notable guests included actress Julie Andrews, writers T S Eliot and Graham Greene, poet W H Auden, the Queen's sister Princess Margaret, fellow artists Joan Miró, Mark Rothko and Georges Braque, art collector and socialite Peggy Guggenheim, photographer and photojournalist Lee Miller and architects Erno Goldfinger, I M Pei and Sir Denys Lasdun.
Having established the Henry Moore Foundation in 1977, he gifted the grounds, buildings and contents of his 70-acre estate to the foundation. The Yorkshire miner's son died in 1986, aged 88, and Irina passed away three years later. Both were buried in Perry Green's St Thomas' Church.
Today, the HMF continues to conserve and present Moore's iconic sculptures in the landscape where he conceived them, offering visitors the opportunity to interact with the works physically as well as intellectually.
This Living Hand: Edmund de Waal Presents Henry Moore will feature until October 31. Henry Moore Studios & Gardens is open Wednesdays to Sundays and bank holidays, 11am to 5pm, with the last admission at 4pm.