Room 1: World Cultures
The 1920s was a period of research and exploration for Moore. His interest in early non-western cultures which provided a foundation for his own sculpture was sparked by publications like Roger Fry’s Vision and Design and by the Ethnographic Collections at the British Museum he visited regularly. His notebooks show Moore’s sources of inspiration ranging from Egyptian to Peruvian and African to Oceanic art. Moore admired the ‘intense vitality’ of ‘primitive’ art that was executed with ‘direct and immediate response to life’. Like earlier artists – Brancusi, Gaudier-Brzeszka and Epstein – he distanced himself from the classical tradition and the limitations of academic modelling. The forms of his carvings and motifs such as the mask and the clasped-handed figure reveal the impact of non-western art. Ancient Mexican art had the greatest influence on Moore. He embraced the ‘stoniness’ of pre-Columbian sculpture and, in advocating the principle of truth to materials, denied his figures the naturalistic appearance of flesh. A preference for English stone combined this influence with local tradition. Moore observed that African sculpture was dominated by ‘sex and religion’. After the Great War, ‘primitive’ art offered universality, permanence and integrity as a welcome alternative to the brutality of modern civilisation.