Scale at Any Size: Henry Moore and Scaling Up
Yet Moore’s discussion of scale does suggest a consistent interest in the effects of distance. The contradiction between enlargement and scalelessness in Henry Moore’s later work, which is connected to the close-up nature of Moore’s working process identified by Wagner, is due to Moore’s attitude to distance. The ‘placeless, scaleless’ vision identified by Wagner is notably diagnosed as a result of Moore’s desire to view objects up close, suggestive of a tendency to eliminate distance. Moore’s readiness to play with distance in order to achieve his own ‘monumental vision’ is evident from early on in his practice. In 1937 and again in 1938 Moore famously photographed maquettes for two Reclining Figure sculptures very close to the lens, so as to make each diminutive object look enormous against the distant landscape (fig.2). Elizabeth Brown has interpreted these photographs as ‘tests’ to gauge the suitability of these sculptural ideas for subsequent enlargement.19 However, given Moore’s claims to experience his maquettes as life-size, and to create ‘scale’ at whatever size, it is perhaps more likely that these photographs are not so much tests as they are declarations of triumph: they are demonstrations of his sense of the monumental. Rather like physically lifting objects from the ground and holding them close to himself, here Moore brings the maquette so close to the lens (and therefore the viewer) that its monumental scale is confirmed.
20 As well as using photography to imagine the enlargement of his carvings and maquettes, Moore was excited by the ease with which blocks of stone could be photographed so as to appear enormous and stoic, reminiscent of ancient monuments such as Stonehenge.21 Feldman notes, too, how Moore’s drawings from this period also demonstrate a desire to create large scale works, as they depict ‘powerful sculptures against dramatic imaginary rocky landscapes’.22 Contrary to the American critic Barbara Rose’s scathing criticism of 1960s ‘blow ups’, which she saw as a direct result of committee commissioning, an ignorant public’s readiness to be impressed by enormous size, and the prevalence of photography’s easy enlargements, Moore’s early photography presents an unwavering determination to demonstrate his monumental sense of scale through creating artworks at many different sizes.23 Rather than the result of an opportunistic, lucrative industry and an easily-wowed public, Moore’s large-scale work should be read alongside his earlier and more diminutive pieces as a consistent preoccupation with monumental vision.
A comparison between Moore’s maquette, polystyrene enlargement, and final sculpture of Large Two Forms (1966) reveals both the extent of the ‘polystyrene look’ and an important insight into Moore’s approach to scaling-up. The maquette presents the two forms in a creamy plaster mottled by green markings (fig.4). Each form seems to echo but mutate the other: both stand upright, with a rounded hole at the heart of each, but with different protrusions and hollows, as if in gentle dialogue. They both stand upon the brown wood of a plinth, its dark grains revealing the small size of the maquette. The polystyrene enlargement has a very different surface, almost breeze-block like in its revelation of its own polystyrene-brick construction. The echoing of the forms remains, with the rounded elements rendered all the more bulbous by the smoothness of the surface (fig.5). This building up of the polystyrene form reflects Moore’s attitude to the process of scaling-up itself. With his dislike of mechanical means of enlargement, such as the pointing machine, Moore thought that alterations would often need to be incorporated during the enlargement process:
How to cite
Rachel Wells, ‘Scale at Any Size: Henry Moore and Scaling Up’, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www