San Marino, CA — The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens announced today that it has acquired a major collection of graphic art by Henry Moore (1898-1986), the most prominent British sculptor of the 20th-century. A gift of the Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation, the collection contains about 330 works on paper that represent the full range of Moore’s graphic work and instantly place The Huntington among the largest Moore repositories in North America. Limited-edition etchings and lithographs comprise the greatest part of the collection, and these intricate, often delicate works explore the same universal themes found in Moore’s monumental sculptures, which are enjoyed by millions in sculpture gardens and museums around the world. The gift also includes three drawings by Moore—one a solidly modeled figure of a woman holding a book, another a biomorphic form that is possibly a study for a sculpture, and the third a sheet of varied studies revealing the artist’s process as he works through a series of ideas.
The collection will form the basis of an exhibition at The Huntington next summer. “Spirit and Essence, Line and Form: The Graphic Work of Henry Moore,” will be on view in the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art’s Susan and Stephen Chandler Wing from June 16 through Oct. 1, 2018.
Berman Foundation president Nancy Berman (a member of The Huntington’s Board of Overseers and chair of its Art Collectors’ Council), along with her husband, Alan Bloch, and the Berman Foundation, have contributed to The Huntington’s art collections in several ways over the past decade. They donated a series of tapestries by Alexander Calder (1898-1976) that are on display in Rothenberg Hall, made the promised gift of a bronze Sounding Sculpture by Harry Bertoia (1915-1978), which stands to the north of the American art galleries, and were instrumental in securing the long-term loan of Calder’s Jerusalem Stabile for a stroll garden at The Huntington. In 2016, they donated a large-scale Moore lithograph. “Nancy tends to lift The Huntington to new levels, and into new areas, time and again,” said Catherine Hess, interim director of the Art Collections at The Huntington. “With this major gift—a selective, well-rounded group of graphic works by one of the greatest artists of the last century—she again exercised her keen understanding of The Huntington and its goals—in this case, our aim to grow our collection of 20th-century British art. Nancy’s contributions always have a special power to move the institution forward.”
The Berman Foundation was founded by Nancy Berman’s parents, devoted collectors who often built friendships with the artists they admired, including Henry Moore. “We’ve long known we’d eventually like to give this group of prints that my parents so carefully assembled to a museum where they were likely to make the biggest difference, and be most useful to a range of visitors and scholars,” said Berman. “Once we were ready to make the gift, The Huntington was the obvious choice. As one of the world’s major institutions for the study of British art and culture, with a substantial body of secondary sources on Henry Moore, the addition of this primary material places The Huntington at the forefront of Moore scholarship in the U.S.”
The prints will complement The Huntington’s strong core collection of early 20th-century British works on paper, which includes drawings by Eileen Agar, Edward Burra, and William Roberts, among others, and dramatically strengthens its collection of British modernist graphic art. Modern British paintings first began joining the collection over the last two years, with an example each by David Bomberg, Mark Gertler, and Duncan Grant.
"Moore’s massive bronze sculptures are already well represented in the Los Angeles-area, in collections including those at the Getty, LACMA, the Norton Simon Museum, and UCLA,” said Hess. “With the Berman gift to The Huntington, the region now has a significant body of his graphic art, providing opportunities for deeper contextualization of the artist’s oeuvre and creative process.”
“Spirit and Essence, Line and Form: The Graphic Work of Henry Moore”
The Huntington will present a broad range of Moore’s graphic work from the Berman gift in “Spirit and Essence, Line and Form” (June 16- Oct. 1, 2018). With approximately 25 works on paper, the exhibition will examine Moore’s graphic work in terms of theme and style, from his explorations of the psyche through the abstracted human figure seen in such examples as Reclining Figure Cave (1979), to musings on the power of creativity in his series on The Artist’s Hand (1979), to studies of architectural forms and found objects with his powerful Stonehenge (1973) and Elephant Skull (1969) portfolios.
“Though he was the most prominent British sculptor of his time,” said Melinda McCurdy, associate curator for British art at The Huntington and curator of the exhibition, “Moore was also a prolific graphic artist, producing powerful drawings as well as hundreds of prints that explore the same themes found in his sculpture - the roots of creation, the body, life, and death. Like his sculpture, his prints examine these primal themes through the language of abstraction, where line and form are imbued with meaning.”
Much like his sculptures, Moore’s prints often express his reactions to the changing political and social climate of his time, as well as his personal life, from the threat of war and nuclear annihilation to the birth of his child. Prints such as Mother and Child (1973) not only express the universal themes of fertility and creation, but also can be read as tender explorations of a topic that became of paramount interest to the artist after his daughter’s birth.
“Spirit and Essence, Line and Form” will introduce visitors to the newly acquired collection and the broad stylistic and thematic range of Moore’s graphic work, revealing his technical interest in the interrelationship of shape and mass and the intersections among different forms, while at the same time showcasing the sheer beauty and power of his imagery.
McCurdy added, “by presenting the exhibition in the American art galleries, we also hope to inspire interesting connections between British and American modernism.” Modernist works in the American art collection include those by Tony Smith (a sculpture For W.A. (1969) and painting Untitled (1960) as well as Sam Francis’s Free Floating Clouds (1980).
Image: Henry Moore, Five Reclining Figures, 1979, lithograph, 19 ? 25 in. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Gift of the Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation. © The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2017 / henry-moore.org