THE GUILLOTINE: Twentieth-Century Classics That Won't Last No 38: HENRY MOORE
Sunday 26 September 1999
in Jamaica St, EC3
Many of us know instinctively and immediately, even when we first spot it on entering a gallery, if a painting is appealing to us. Our appreciation of sculpture, though, is more problematic, since the history of the form is - again for many if not, of course, all of us - considerably less familiar territory. And the problem is compounded by the fact that, unlike painting, sculpture is frequently an al fresco art. Virtually every day of our lives, as we go about our quotidian business, we stroll past sculptures - in streets, in parks, on industrial or housing estates - without paying them any more attention than we do telephone booths, say, or postboxes. We don't stop in front of them. We don't study their curves and contours, head cocked at a pensive angle. We don't circle them in order to gain the full impact of their three-dimensionality. We tend not even to inspect the accompanying plaque to acquaint ourselves with either the artist's name or that of the work itself.
Was Henry Moore a great sculptor? For the reasons outlined above, most of us could no longer say yea or nay with real assurance. His Polo Mint creations, complete with the inevitable hole in the middle (if one can employ the phrase "complete with" for what is, after all, an absence, a void), have become such a routine element of our environment we no longer notice them. They call to mind the identity of the murderer in G K Chesterton's story "The Invisible Man". It was, as it happens, the postman, an "invisible man" because none of the witnesses interrogated by Father Brown observed, or remembered, him entering the house in which the crime was committed. Open-air sculptures in general, and Moore's in particular, are invisible works of art.
Living in a city is, in a sense, living indoors. Such social creatures have we become that we forget just how artificial is a vast metropolitan complex in which man-made dwellings stretch as far as the eye can see. Unless it chances to be our business, vocation or passion, we have long since ceased to subject our surroundings to aesthetic judgement. And Moore's sculptures, too, have become just another, anonymous part of the urban furniture, like some expensive sofa over whose purchase we once agonised but on which we now curl up every evening before the TV set.
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets
Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Kim Jong-un shows off airport designed by architect he likely had executed
- 2 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 3 Why it matters 26 million people have changed their Facebook profile picture to a rainbow flag
- 4 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 5 Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L James's Twitter Q&A didn't go exactly as planned
Amy Winehouse film director: 'I wanted to show the fun, bright-eyed girl we didn't know'
Orange Is The New Black season 3 episode 1, review: The Ross and Rachel-ness of Piper and Alex is starting to grate
The picture of a man crowd surfing in a wheelchair at Glastonbury is brilliant, but it wasn't taken at Glastonbury
Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L James's Twitter Q&A didn't go exactly as planned
Guillaume Tell, Royal Opera House, review: Gang rape and stripping naked of female actor met with boos
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Extend Right To Buy to tenants of private landlords, Labour's Jeremy Corbyn says
David Cameron struck double blow in his hopes to win Britain a new EU deal
Pentagon accuses Russia of 'playing with fire' over nuclear threats towards Nato