Best of British

Nicholas Penny

Henry Moore was attracted by the idea of monumentality. He tried hard, but with limited success, to find ways of incorporating his sculpture into modern buildings. He also had the attractive idea of locating some of his statues in remote settings, following the example of his friend the late Sir William Keswick, who placed four of Moore’s sculptures, as well as one by Rodin and one by Epstein, in the wild landscape of the estate he owned in south-west Scotland. The setting is commemorated by John Haddington’s fine photographs, and the initiative richly documented by John McEwen (Keswick’s nephew), in Glenkiln. The sculpture by Moore which is most eloquent in this context is the bronze seated King and Queen of 1952-3. McEwen quotes Moore saying that the subject owed something to the bedtime stories he read to his daughter. Their majesties look like survivors of a distant age, an effect enhanced by the fact that they recall the lean, tense warriors of archaic Greek and Etruscan sculpture which was cast in bronze directly from small wax models, as well as the ‘pair statues’ of ancient Egypt who seem resolved to face an unknown future together and alone.

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