UK: Henry Moore's textile design art

Best known for his large-scale reclining figures and wartime sketches of London underground shelters, Henry Moore still surprises the public with remarkable designs on an intimate scale produced at his home studio in Penny Green, Hertfordshire.

A major exhibition of his acclaimed creations comes at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich, celebrating Moore's genius for textiles with a showcase of his fabric designs from the 1940s and 1950s.

This show invites visitors to examine Moore's passion for dress and upholstery fabrics through large-scale wall panels, drawings and lithographs.

The impressive display, curated by the Henry Moore Foundation, brings together works Moore designed for fabric, including the curtains and bedspreads which adorned his own home at Hoglands.

Moore's little-known textiles really capture his socialist principles. He felt that art could be appreciated by all, and could enrich everyone's experience of both domestic and public space.
In late 1942, his natural gift for the craft intrigued Czech textile manufacturer Zika Ascher.

They set up a new textile production company and soon commissioned leading artists to create designs for scarves, to be produced in rayon and parachute nylon, as well as silk.

Anita Feldman, exhibition curator, has singled out those pieces which play with the illuminating aspects of Moore's work.

"The link to his interests in non-Western art, organic form and perhaps surprisingly, vivid colour, could be easily spotted," says Anita, having recently taken on the role of the Head of Henry Moore Collections and Exhibitions.

"This makes the collection an especially attractive display, with beautifully composed bodies of work, and evocative textile designs."

By incorporating the industrial shapes of twisted wire and jagged edges, his bold prints take on a functional, utilitarian edge.

Gradually, the Moore-Ascher symbiosis went beyond the brief to create designs for dress and upholstery fabric.

By the late 1940s, Moore himself had moved on to experimenting with limited editions of textile panels comprising single figure motifs, hung as objects of art in themselves.
Works such as Barbed Wire, Treble Clef, Zigzag and Oval Safety Pins feature abstractions of the small wonders of industrial shapes.

As Manchester's Daily Dispatch proclaimed in 1953: "We can't all afford to hang a Picasso on the wall – but very soon we'll be having Henry Moore curtains at the windows."

Using a combination of wax crayons, pen and ink, gouache, Moore manages to draw out and highlight shapes and lines with the help of different watercolour washes.

The finished effect, when transferred by Ascher into screen-printed motifs, is full of depth and texture.

This is particularly evident in the Family Group design, conveniently displayed alongside his familiar bronze maquette.

Seen separately, the various motifs each seem to convey a slightly different visual approach to the bronze's organic forms.

But, as images on fabric — repeated motifs busy with light and movement — they also suggest a process of reduction and abstraction that the finished bronze does not convey.

The textiles found wide appeal, with his Barbed Wire design appearing in the 1947 British film They Made Me a Fugitive – a piece which catches a swift glimpse of the glamorous aspirations most cinema stars held at that time.

The influence of the war, though, shows in the more hard-edged designs on display, which incorporate images of barbed wire and safety pins.

Their colours are particularly unexpected from an artist who felt that colour was a distraction from the appreciation of form, and therefore did not paint his sculptures: vivid pinks and greens, zigzag motifs and swirls of interspersing colours are some of the common elements of the exhibition.

The leafy country setting helps with its visual appeal, and it's a pleasure to see Moore's fabrics in the context of his home and complementary works.

Nichola Johnson, Director at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, says the exhibition has proved popular. "It's always fascinating to discover less well-known aspects of a great artist's work," she observes.

"Many people will surely find Henry Moore's early work a startling revelation." Thinking your Henry Moore puzzle is missing a piece? This collection should fill in the gap.

Henry Moore Textiles, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, Norwich, until August 29 2010

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Added: July 31, 2010 Source: Agencies
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