Home > Art > Madrid > 
Madrid exhibition

Tres escultores ingleses (1952-1982)

4 february to 1 march 2015
Henry Moore, Mother and Child, 1953
Henry Moore, Mother and Child, 1953. Private collection. © The Henry Moore Foundation, Hertfordshire

Between February 4 and March 1, 2015, the Fundación Juan March is presenting another in its series of small-format shows habitually organized for the month of February. Three English Sculptors (1952–1982) – which originated in the project on British art that culminated in 2012 with the exhibition Treasure Island: British Art from Holbein to Hockney – aims to single out the work of three artists who are as closely related as they are different and without whom 20th-century sculpture cannot be understood. The powerful volumetric presence of this small selection of works by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Anthony Caro reflects both the sculptural renaissance that began in Britain in the 1930s and continues to flourish today, and the two ways that exist of approaching sculpture: the classical route of mass and volume and the aesthetic of assemblage, the latter as a continuation of the visual experimentation first seen in Pablo Picasso and Julio González's pioneering activities in 1928.


When Henry Moore, the eldest of the three, began his studies at the Leeds School of Art in 1919 he was the first student at that institution who opted to devote himself to the medium of sculpture. While a tradition of realist, academic sculpture existed in British art (with the exception of Jacob Epstein and the prematurely deceased Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, whose arrival in England introduced Cubist ideas), it was Moore who took sculpture along a totally regenerative path of experimentation. As a result, both his work and teaching activities had crucial consequences for the evolution of the medium from the interwar period onwards. In general terms, Moore's work evolved from an early, archaizing period associated with the influence of primitive art to sculptures with undulating forms in which, from 1933 on, he bored out the form in order to make space for the void and thus interconnect the surfaces of the sculptural volume.


The present exhibition aims to single out the work of three artists who are as closely related as they are different and without whom 20th-century sculpture cannot be understood. The powerful volumetric presence of this small selection of works by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Anthony Caro reflects both the sculptural renaissance that began in Britain in the 1930s and continues to flourish today, and the two ways that exist of approaching sculpture: the classical route of mass and volume and the aesthetic of assemblage
At the same time Barbara Hepworth, a friend of Moore's and like him born in Yorkshire, was also working on an innovative form of sculpture. Hepworth met Moore while she was studying at the Leeds School of Art and the two maintained a close, life-long friendship. Hepworth rapidly evolved from a figurative type of sculpture with primitive traits towards a use of abstraction. Her fascination with material, texture and form, which she derived from Brancusi, whose Paris studio she had visited in 1932, provides the focus of her work. Like Moore's, it is characterized by rounded, sinuous forms and an interplay of voids in the sculptural space.

Henry Moore's innovative endeavors became widely disseminated and were notably influential for subsequent generations of artists. The youngest of the three, the recently deceased Anthony Caro, worked as an assistant in Moore's studio in the 1950s, learning from him the potential for experimentation with different materials. In turn, Caro's formal experiments, located within an oeuvre centered on the use of assemblage as a means of construction and on an emphasis on the work's physical presence, marked a new turning point in British sculpture. Through his teaching activities at the Saint Martin's School of Art, for many years Caro has been a reference point for the development of some of contemporary art's sculptural idioms.

Barbara Hepworth, Figure in a landscape (Zennor), 1952. Private collection. © Bowness, Hepworth Estate
Barbara Hepworth, Figure in a landscape (Zennor), 1952. Private collection. © Bowness, Hepworth Estate

In the case of Henry Moore, the selection of works in this exhibition, loaned from private collections, includes both sculptures and prints and exemplifies two of his recurring themes: the reclining figure and the mother and child group. The latter motif, which became an obsession for the artist, as he himself acknowledged, is represented here by Mother and Child of 1953. It is accompanied by a series of disturbing etchings that originated with a gift Moore received in 1966 from his friend the biologist Sir Julian Huxley: the huge skull of an African elephant, in which Moore found an infinite range of potential forms. Barbara Hepworth's rapid evolution in the 1930s – from a figurative type of sculpture with archaizing lines to abstract, pared-down work characterized by its profound connection with nature – is evident in Figure in a Landscape (Zennor) of 1952, the title of which includes the name of a village in Cornwall, a region of England where Hepworth lived for many years. Finally, the two sculptures on display by Anthony Caro are from his Table Pieces series, in which he began to work in the 1960s with the aim of developing the numerous possibilities offered by the repeated use of a table as support. While dating from different periods (one from 1975–76 and the other from 1982–83), in both these works Caro uses assemblage as the method of construction and steel as the material, left bare and devoid of color so that its texture and degree of oxidization function as the visual element that connects the different parts.

Schedule and location