Houghton Hall is situated in the parish of Houghton midway between Kings Lynn and Fakenham here in North Norfolk. Built in the 1720’s and set in 9,000 acres of stunning countryside and gardens Houghton Hall was the home of Britain’s first Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole. It has to be one of England’s most impressive Palladian houses, it oozes opulence and power and turns out to be the perfect setting for Henry Moore’s work. Last year Houghton Hall hosted Damien Hirst’s work but this years exhibition is an all together classier affair.
Born in 1898 in Castleford Yorkshire Henry Spencer Moore, the son of a coal miner, became one of Britain’s best known and much loved Artists. In 1919 having served in the First World War in France where he was gassed at the Battle of Cambrai Moore enrolled at Leeds School of Art. From there he gained a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London where he studied in the company of Jacob Epstein, Barbara Hepworth and Leon Underwood.
As Moore’s career developed he represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1930 along with the likes of Walter Sicket and Epstein. In 19421 he was appointed Official War Artist and completed a series of moving drawings of civilians sheltering from bombing raids in the London Underground.
Moores principle influence was nature. He was an obsessive collector of stones, shells, bones and driftwood which were a source of inspiration.
“The observation of nature is part of an artists life, it enlarges his form knowledge, keeps him fresh from working only by formula, and feeds inspiration. The human figure is what interests me most deeply, but I have found principles of form and rhythm from the study of natural objects such as pebbles, rocks, bones trees, plants etc There is in nature a limitless variety of shapes and rhythms (and the telescope and microscope have enlarged the field) from which the sculptor can enlarge his form knowledge experience”
Henry Moore 1934
Curated by Sebasitano Barassi this exhibition is entitled ‘Nature & Inspiration’ and its location at Houghton is sympathetic to and amplifies the theme. Moore always preferred to have his work shown in the landscape and having seen it here myself I have no doubt that he would have been absolutely delighted.
As a taster here are some of the pieces in situ:
The Colossal Vertebrae (1968 Bronze) a mechanicalized reinterpretation of the organic form sits in front of the Hall.
At the rear of the Hall Large Reclining Figure (1984 Fibreglass) a huge exploration of the human form which one feels, draws some influence from the landscape.
There are of course further exciting sculptures, drawings and etchings at this exhibition which I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend. I am seriously considering revisiting the exhibition when it rains which would have an exciting effect on the bronze pieces so don’t let the weather put you off if you are thinking of going.
Moore was a quintessential English Artist who was renowned and loved worldwide. A national treasure indeed. Speaking of which rumour has it that Antony Gormley will be having an exhibition at Houghton Hall next year. Here’s hoping!