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A Giant Among Sculptors

On Thursday last week I took time out to go on a day trip to visit Perry Green in Hertfordshire, former home of the world renowned sculptor Henry Moore. It was only my second visit there and of you are thinking of visiting you should be aware of a couple of things before setting out. The first is it’s location as it is quite difficult to find if you neither have a map or sat nav as surrounding Perry Green itself are dozens of narrow, twisting roads all looking pretty, but few leading to Perry Green itself.

The other things to remember are that there is a no smoking policy for the entire estate on which Hoglands, Moore’s former home sits. The price of entry was £12 with an additional £6 for the guided tour of his home where you are not allowed under any circumstances to take photographs or bags in order to protect the  artworks inside. You are provided with lockers though to store such belongings prior to entry and provided with overshoes to minimise wear and tear on the original flooring.

I won’t spoil the tour by sharing what was inside Hoglands other than by adding it was well worth the additional entrance fee in my opinion. The guide was extremely knowledgeable, helpful and interesting not least because he used to work in the archives department. We were given a brief insight into his northern roots, his family life and his involvement in both world wars in which he served.

Moore’s meteoric rise in fame and fortune in 1977 led him to set up the Henry Moore Foundation. So colossal was his wealth by then that the result has been to date no need for any other source of funding. At that time Mick Jagger was only a few British citizens that were in the supertax bracket if 98 pence tax out of every 100 or British pound.

Moore’s generosity to fellow artists and the arts during his life was legendary with many becoming famous artists in their own right. I have a hunch you may if heard of Picasso, Rodin and Barbara Hepworth which he knew personally. His popularity extended to many celebrities dropping in to visit him yet he never lost his habit of frugality and make do and mend attitude that his mining ancestors had instilled in him regarding the practicalities of his personal home life nor his work ethic as he was prolific in output.

Elsewhere you are free to take photographs, but in indoor spaces flash photography is also not permitted. However I found I had needed no flash as I snapped away with my camera on my phone. There is plenty to see in the grounds, on the estate and in the studios. You can quite easily just enjoy the small woods, sheep fields, gardens and picnic area for themselves if you happen to have company with you who are not interested in sculpture.

There is also a cafe, toilets and a small gift shop with a small selection of prints, books and postcards and a couple of gifts to suit most budgets. There are also additional items from one or two other artists and a few publications on sustainability which I think reflect what Moore and his family would be advocating today if they were all still alive. The staff comprise of paid personnel and volunteers all of whom were friendly and helpful. Some were working on conservation projects, others were setting up for an event while I was there.

I would like to see the estate used for outdoor evening photography experiences, music and theatre shows, so I suggested it, only to be delighted to find some of these ideas had been done pre-covid so no doubt will be again. It is also a venue for weddings, smaller seminars and conferences, and welcomes coach loads from schools along with disabled visitors as wheel chair access is nearly everywhere. The main exception being parts of the wood and fields though I saw one wheelchair user successfully managing the coarse rough grass of one sheep field.

My visit was to seek inspiration for a sculpture in clay which Moore rarely used preferring plaster as you can keep adding to it even when dry. Every artist has a preferred medium and each of media has it’s own unique advantages and disadvantages which is worth bearing in mind if, like me you like trying many things. As I said it was my second visit to Perry Green. My first was to see what all the fuss was about as from photos alone I was not that impressed. I was blown away by his work then and remain a fan now. So, as sculpture is a three dimensional art form it’s worth that extra effort to go and see it whatever you think you taste is.

Finally for more information contact the Henry Moore Foundation direct not least to see what it does beyond Perry Green itself. In the UK there is another site in Leeds and globally the Foundation works hard to help sculptors in a variety of ways. Don’t ask me how… Contact them although I have included a link about their grants.

Hertfordshire – https://www.henry-moore.org/

Leeds, Yorkshire – https://www.henry-moore.org/visit/henry-moore-institute

Grants – https://www.incca.org/articles/henry-moore-foundation-grants

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