- Ronald Moody 1900–1984
- Kauri wood
- Object: 670 × 147 × 99 mm
- Presented by Anne Walmsley 2021
Hope 1966–7 is a small naked male figure, carved in wood and approximately sixty centimetres high, standing on an integral cube base. The arms are held close to the figure’s sides, almost one with the body. The right foot is embedded in a block, while the left is free, though rendered schematically. The shaved head, on a short and stout neck, is proportionately larger than the rest of the body. The figure’s features are characterised by a concentrated simplicity and reduction of forms. Moody always chose his materials with care, considering their distinctive properties. In this case he used Kauri, a native New Zealand wood, which was sent by the artist’s nephew, Harold Moody Jnr., who lived in New Zealand. Kauri wood has a golden-brown colour which, due to the large size of the tree trunk, has almost no knots.
Like his near contemporaries Jacob Epstein (1880–1959) and Henry Moore (1898–1986), Moody was deeply affected by the collection of Egyptian art in London’s British Museum. He had started his first carving in wood in 1935, four months after his initial sighting of Egyptian sculpture in the British Museum, in an exhibition devoted to Egyptian art. Moody continued to be inspired not just by the monumentality and volumetric rendering of forms in Egyptian and Asian sculpture, but particularly by the sense of ‘presentness’ and inner force that they exuded. As he explained while speaking at a meeting of the Caribbean Artists Movement in 1967, around the time of the making of Hope:
I was not greatly moved by the works of the Renaissance. The beauty I saw and the craft … but what really moved me was … the sort of inner feeling of movement and stillness of Egyptian and Eastern art … This led me to realise that the important thing for me, at any rate, was the imagination: in the sense that all our institutions and way of living turn upon an inner source. (Quoted in Walmsley 1992, p.82.)
Moody described the exceptional quality he discovered in Egyptian sculpture in terms of ‘silence’, and ‘a profound feeling of inner unity’, which enables the mind to come to rest and connects to an inner experience that is shared across different epochs and geographies (Dawn Ritch, ‘An Evening with Ronald Moody’, Jamaica Journal, September 1972, p.65).
Hope relates to Moody’s earlier proposal for a monument to the unknown political prisoner, also in Tate’s collection, Unknown Political Prisoner 1953 (Tate T13273). For the competition, Moody submitted a plaster maquette in the form of a standing figure, his right foot attached to a ball. In the case of the later, finished sculpture Hope, imprisonment is abstracted and the figure, rather than personifying the prisoner, becomes a metaphor for the hope and mental strength needed to defy oppression. For Moody, hope was not a generic desire to escape from something unpleasant, as he felt it was portrayed in another work titled Hope in Tate’s collection, probably an oil painting from 1886 by George Frederic Watts and assistant. Instead, Moody felt that hope ‘is the recognition of the reality behind appearances and the wish to be under its laws’ (Tate N01640; letter from Ronald Moody to Anne Walmsley, 1 July 1972, Anne Walmsley’s private archive). Around 1953 Moody had written:
The political prisoner has always existed and will continue to exist as long as tyranny fails to conquer the spirit of Man. The fight against tyranny is primarily spiritual and hope, faith and pity are the most powerful weapons of the political prisoner. Hope that there exists a ‘tomorrow’ for freedom, which faith transforms into certainty; pity for the tyrant who is a prisoner and victim of his passions, although he may cause untold suffering before he destroys himself. (Ronald Moody’s notes on the Unknown Political Prisoner, c.1953, Tate Archive TGA 956/2/2/14/3.)
In light of this quote, it could be argued that Hope may also embody the principles of nonviolent resistance that inspired some of the most important liberation movements in post-colonial history.
Cynthia Moody, ‘Ronald Moody: A Man True to his Vision’, Third Text, vol.3, issue 8/9, September 1989, pp.5–24.
The Other Story: Afro-Asian Artists in Post-war Britain, exhibition catalogue, Hayward Gallery, London 1989, pp.16–19.
Anne Walmsley, The Caribbean Artists Movement 1966–1972, London and Port of Spain, Trinidad 1992.
August 2017/ Revised October 2020
Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.