Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Henry Moore

During today's artistic wanderings I came across an artist whose work I have a definite soft spot for. His name is Henry Moore and no I don't mean the modernist sculptor, rather an artist born in the previous century. I am sure this artists reputation has been damaged in part by the unfortunate coincidence of sharing names with one of Britain's most loved and well known sculptors.

This Henry Moore was born in 1831 in a very different era, a few years before the abolition of slavery in Britain and it's empire, the year Victor Hugo published Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Darwin set off for his travels and rather bizarrely the inventor of Coca-cola (John Stith Pemberton) was born. Imagine... a world without coke.

Henry Moore was a painter of landscapes and had a particular penchant for dramatic seascapes and marine scenes usually in the English Channel.

The Wreck Henry Moore 1875 City of London Corporation

He had a gift when it came to the realistic representations of waves that can only be explained by hours spent observing them. It must have been a fairly difficult enterprise. His paintings often forgo a foreground jumping directly in to the representation of the churning sea. This gives a sense of immediacy to the paintings, you can just imagine the artist slaving away sketching, painting or simply observing the sea. In fact one story reads that he suffered from rheumatism after a particularly intensive painting session during a gale. Perhaps a gale similar to the one in the painting below described simply as a Winter Gale in the Channel. We can see the rolling clouds the intense darkness of the sky and the rays of sunshine breaking through the clouds. You can almost hear the shrieking gannets looking for washed up food in the breaking waves. A familiar sight to anyone who knows the sea.

Winter Gale in the Channel Wolverhampton Art Gallery 1872

My heart was originally won by this artist because he painted a part of the world that I love more than any other, Alderney. In 1886 he painted a view of the Race of Alderney which is a dangerous tidal race reaching more than 11 knots. It seperates the Island of Alderney from France. However like many dangerous currents it has the most innocent of appearances.

  The Race of Alderney 1886 Cheltenham Art Gallery

He shows us a dark choppy water surface with white peaks dotted around and the cliffs of the island and two small sailing ships in the background.

It is not the most dramatic of his paintings but it tugs on my heartstrings and I believe that his paintings would do the same to anyone who loves, lives by or works on the sea. In them he demonstrates a profound understanding of the calm, the drama and the danger of the waves he paints.