Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity

ISBN 978-1-84976-391-2

Learning from Moore between the Wars: Henry Moore as a Teacher at the Royal College of Art and Chelsea School of Art 1924–39

Rebecca Wade

Moore taught part-time at the Royal College of Art and Chelsea School of Art in London during the interwar years. Drawing on his own words and the recollections of his students, Rebecca Wade examines Moore’s teaching practice in the context of changing attitudes to art education.
Henry Moore taught sculpture part-time for fifteen years during the interwar period, first at the Royal College of Art, from 1924 to 1931, and then at the Chelsea School of Art, from 1931 to 1939. Reflections of his time as a teacher emerge sporadically in his correspondence and through the interviews that were published both during his lifetime and after his death in 1986. This essay reviews these statements and sets them in the context of art education in the second quarter of the twentieth century as an understudied transitional period between a late-nineteenth century pedagogy informed by the Arts and Crafts and New Sculpture movements and the radical post-war transformation associated with the Basic Design movement. (Developed by Harry Thubron and Tom Hudson at Leeds College of Art and Richard Hamilton and Victor Pasmore at King’s College, Durham University, Basic Design looked to experimental European models, particularly the Bauhaus, to liberate art and design education from a prescriptive curriculum.) Moore’s practice as a teacher reflected his rejection of the aspects of his own training that he felt to be redundant, fused with the emulation of those he respected. It is therefore crucial to attend not only to Moore’s practice as a teacher but also to the academic teaching that Moore himself received. It is this negotiation between academic and avant-garde positions that makes an investigation of Moore’s teaching philosophy and practice so crucial to the understanding of his development as a sculptor during the 1920s and 1930s. This essay uses quotations from Moore and his students not as unmediated objective truth but as a way to enter a discussion informed by these multiple subjectivities and the broader historical context.
No sharp distinction can be drawn between Moore the student and Moore the teacher in chronological or conceptual terms. While still attending Castleford Grammar School, he began training as a student teacher and between the ages of sixteen and eighteen he was teaching for two days each week.1 Moore described this period as ‘the most miserable period of my life. I was too young to know when the children were going to make fun of me and pull my leg and do their little stunts’.2 The practice was not far removed from the method of teaching developed in the nineteenth century, using an intermediate group of pupil-teachers – or monitors, as they were known – to whom elements of the master’s responsibilities were delegated. These liminal positions between the master and the student functioned as an economical means of extending discipline among a large cohort of students, while providing the possibility of self-improvement and, albeit limited, social mobility for the monitor.
The continuation of Moore’s teaching career was ruptured by his entry into the army. When he returned to teach in Castleford in March 1919, he found the maintenance of discipline in the classroom was no longer beyond his control.3 Against his father’s judgement and contrary to his brother’s example, however, he did not wish to continue as a school teacher and with the help of his former art teacher at Castleford Secondary School, Alice Gostick, he applied for and was awarded an ex-servicemen’s grant to enter Leeds College of Art. Moore appears to have taken a strategic approach to his education at this stage: ‘[Leeds] was understood from the outset merely to be a first step. London was the goal. But the only way to get to London was to take the Board of Education examinations and win a scholarship’.4

Leeds College of Art 1919–21

Henry Moore’s time as a student at Leeds College of Art is important to consider in relation to his teaching practice because in many ways it represented a model he would attempt to reject or at least subvert. In his first year Moore was drilled for the Board of Education drawing examination by Walter Buckley Pearson.5 ‘Old Pearson’ was described by Moore as ‘a very good teacher in an academic sense. He’d teach you all he knew. He had very strict rules of what was a good drawing’.6 What qualified as good drawing in this context did not differ substantially from what had been considered good drawing for almost a century, as Moore put it: ‘humdrum copying from the antique, just making very careful stump-shaded drawings with no understanding whatever of form’.7 Art historian Paul Wood has written that the deployment of antique exemplars in the nineteenth-century Schools of Design, the direct antecedent of Schools and Colleges of Art, had resulted in ‘an etiolated classicism that had dried out into a husk and was increasingly incapable of addressing the effects of modernity’.8 The reverence for antiquity as the source of universal principles for the practice of art and design was not accepted, however, without question during the nineteenth century. Reflecting on his education during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, decorative artist and writer Fred Miller described his antipathy towards these objects: ‘the same old casts which for years have hung up in schools of art have bred contempt because of one’s familiarity with them’.9 Miller went on to articulate the character of his instruction, which bears a remarkable resemblance to Moore’s experience some sixty years later:
The training I received at the West London School of Art was of a very rule-of-thumb character – drawing from uninteresting casts in a heated, fetid underground cellar, where the tuition, meagre as it was, was of as mechanical a character as the work during the day, and so deadening was it that after a while I dropped going to the school. During my pupillage I developed a certain amount of technical facility, but I was sadly deficient in knowledge of form ... It was like reciting in a language one did not understand.10
The way in which the knowledge of form thought to be embedded in the object could be accessed was not precisely articulated. The historian of art and design education Stuart Macdonald characterised the perceived transmission of universal principles as close to a form of osmosis: ‘mysticism was prevalent with regards to casts, and many believed that if these copies of antiquity were perused for hours the secrets of High Art might be revealed’.11 In the mid-nineteenth century there were some attempts to differentiate the knowledge that could be gleaned from different plaster casts. The external examiners responsible for the assessment of the work sent from across the national network of Schools of Art were embedded in the traditions of the Royal Academy. Charles Eastlake (1793–1865) had been elected President of the Royal Academy in 1850, the history painter Daniel Maclise (bap. 1806–1870) studied at the Royal Academy Schools and taught there during the 1850s, and Richard Redgrave (1804–1888) was educated under this system and an elected Academician from 1851. In their collective report on the student work examined in 1852, they offered the following advice:
It is, moreover, desirable that male forms, and those of the severe character, such as the Discobolus, the Dancing Faun, or the Fighting Gladiator, should first be studied, as imparting more information to the student than female forms or male statues of a more voluptuous character, such the Antinous or the Apollino, which are better attempted when beauty is to be studied after a certain amount of knowledge of form and proportion has been obtained.12
It is not clear to what extent this advice was followed nor how prevalent this gendered distinction between ‘information’ and ‘beauty’ might have been. However, the rationale appears to have been derived from the academic principle of the ideal associated with Joshua Reynolds’s Discourses, conflated with the nineteenth-century design reform movement which sought to codify taste and establish universal principles of correct design. In this system of thought the vessel that stored and transmitted these mechanical and aesthetic lessons appears to have been considered as a neutral object without contingency or mediation. This was to some degree maintained into the twentieth century. Speaking in 1960, Moore articulated the doubts that had formed after his early encounters with reproductions of classical statuary as a student at Leeds College of Art:
I was a bit troubled by not liking the sculpture which the teachers there expected us to like. We were set to draw from the ‘antique’ such things as the Boy and Goose, which is a late Roman copy of the Greek work, and we had to draw the Discobolus. I didn’t have the slightest bit of interest in those sculptures, and there was a stage in the first week or two at the school when I thought, ‘Well, is it me that doesn’t know what sculpture is? Is there something wrong with me that I don’t like these pieces? Now I know that I was quite justified in not liking them because, besides being not very good pieces of sculpture in themselves, they’d been whitewashed every year for twenty years and had a thick coat, nearly a quarter of an inch, of whitewash on top of them, which was blurring all the sensitivity and the form. But still we were expected to draw them.13
A teaching collection of plaster casts had first arrived in Leeds in November 1846 for the use of the Leeds School of Design at 22 East Parade, under the management of the Leeds Mechanics Institution and Literary Society.14 Leeds College of Art was a direct descendant of this school and it is possible that when it moved into new premises in 1903, having been accommodated in the Leeds Institute of Science, Art and Literature building from 1868, that some of the plaster casts from the first incarnation had survived, which might account for their particularly poor condition. Moore’s sceptical position in relation to the utility and relevance of these objects would later inform his teaching practice at the Royal College of Art.
Despite his reservations, Moore (and fellow sculptor Barbara Hepworth the following year) successfully completed the two-year drawing course in one year and requested to study for the Board of Education examination in sculpture during the second year. Moore had a tendency to slightly mythologise the implications of this request: ‘they had to start a sculpture school just for me when I said I wanted to be a sculptor. They got someone called [Reginald Thomas] Cotterill who had just left the Royal College – I was his only student. He would never leave me alone, he was always there behind me, always watching. He wasn’t a good sculptor himself.’15 Moore moderated his opinion of Cotterill in 1968, describing him as ‘an intelligent person, and a good teacher. He did have part-time students, and even classes, but I was his one real care’.16 Although a new teacher did have to be appointed to teach sculpture, it is not quite accurate to suggest that a sculpture school was inaugurated for Moore alone. The teaching of sculpture had certainly been suspended during the First World War but this was only a temporary hiatus. Matthew Withey has noted that ‘talented sculptors, most notably [Joseph] Hermon Cawthra and medallist Percy Metcalfe, had come through before the First World War, when Sculpture and Modelling was headed by Edward Caldwell Spruce’.17 Indeed, tuition in sculpture had been integral to the curriculum of Leeds College of Art ever since its establishment as a School of Design in the middle of the nineteenth century.18 Nevertheless, Moore benefitted from this focused attention and duly received his scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art in South Kensington.

Royal College of Art 1921–31

Moore entered the Royal College of Art under Francis Derwent Wood, Professor of Sculpture and a Royal Academician who was opposed to direct carving.19 Bradford-born artist Sir William Rothenstein had become Principal of the College in 1920 and he is widely credited with reviving the scope and ambition of what Moore had described as having become ‘just a training college where teachers taught students to become teachers and teach more students’.20 Rothenstein became Moore’s advocate and his warmest reflections are reserved for him, alongside the young Leon Underwood (1890–1975). Underwood, only eight years Moore’s senior, taught drawing at the Royal College from 1920 to 1923 and at the behest of his students, continued to teach from his own studio at Girdlers Road from October 1923. The art critic Christopher Neve described the main points of difference between the established mode of teaching drawing and Underwood’s method: ‘poses were shorter and the subject did not consist necessarily of only one model ... the emphasis was on conveying volume, mass and direction with the greatest economy possible’.21 This method of teaching life drawing had been a welcome contrast to Pearson’s insistence on a constant 45 degree angle of pencil shading at Leeds. In 1967 Moore wrote:
Except for Rothenstein there was only one teacher I learned anything from – Leon Underwood, then a young painter, new on the college staff, with a passionate attitude towards drawing from life. He set out to teach the science of drawing, of expressing solid form on a flat surface – not the photographic copying of tone values, not the art-school imitation of styles in drawing.22
When Moore completed his three-year programme of study in 1924, Rothenstein offered him the position of assistant in the School of Sculpture for two days a week for a period of seven years, initially to fill the gap left by Derwent Wood who had resigned as Professor of Sculpture that year.23 (During this period the School of Sculpture employed three members of staff: a Professor as the de facto Head of the School, an Assistant and a Teacher of Stone and Marble Carving). Before the appointment of Ernest Cole to the Professorship, Moore described the situation he had inherited: ‘I had only eight students in the sculpture school, of which I was the [temporary] head. I got rid of all the old plaster casts with poor surfaces, taken from moulds used over and over again’.24 It seems clear that Moore’s experience as a student at Leeds College of Art informed this decision to jettison some of the plaster casts, although it is not clear what exactly constituted a ‘poor surface’ and which works were retained. The widespread disposal of casts from both schools of art and museum collections did not gain traction until after the Second World War and so, in this respect, Moore’s actions anticipated the direction of pedagogic and museological shifts in the second half of the twentieth century.25
At the School of Sculpture students were for the most part engaged in drawing and modelling in clay in preparation for the examination of the three-year Diploma Course in Sculpture, which was to model a head from life over a period of six days.26 During the period in question the task of the School of Sculpture was ‘to promote the study of the Plastic Arts in Ornamental Design, Architecture, and the Industrial Arts and Handicrafts, based upon the study of the human figure’.27 Crucially, the training of autonomous sculptors was not an explicit part of its remit; the Royal College of Art did not operate on the model of an academy. During the 1920s and 1930s the syllabus for sculpture contained the following components:
Modelling of architectural ornament
Figure and ornamental composition
The study of osteology and myology
Modelled studies of drapery
Studies in the round and in relief of the head and figure from life
Drawing from life
Stone carving and pointing
It is not known whether Moore taught direct carving of stone or wood in this context. As had been the case during his own time as a student at the Royal College, it was Herbert ‘Barry’ Hart (1894–1954) who was employed as the Teacher of Stone and Marble Carving until 1952. Moore was responsible, however, for teaching modelling in clay. One of his students, Jack Clarkson, writing to Roger Berthoud in 1985, recalled:
He taught me to see the human figure not as an outline but in masses, tilting this way and that ... At this period we were in the habit of applying clay in pieces (as opposed to the [Edouard] Lanteri ‘lick and spit’ method). We started with great lumps, finally applying small pellets. I am afraid I began to get quite finicky and mannered in this respect, and Moore would say ‘stop clerking, Clarkson.’ This illustrates, I think, his feeling that what mattered most was the form rather than the surface appearance.29
Another student at the Royal College of Art, Alma Ramsey, remembered Moore’s growing reputation as a sculptor and the ways in which he responded to his cohort:
I was very aware that Henry Moore was a great sculptor, so much so that I was rather in awe of him, and therefore not able to get on friendly terms ... He always took our work seriously and prefaced criticism with ‘at the stage you are in ...’. Students were expected to get on by themselves most of the time and to be technically competent. At that time technique was unfashionable, and we hacked and muddled and agonized. HM’s teaching that I managed to digest had a lifelong and deep effect on me ... I remember dancing with him once at a Friday hop and he remarked that I felt more well-built (or words to that effect) than I looked – all quite serious and no suggestion of flirtation. I should rate him C in sex appeal, I think because he was so immersed in his own sculpture and not interested in silly young students.30
Photograph taken at the Royal College of Art after the Diploma examinations had taken place in the summer of 1929. In the doorway from left to right: Alfred Drury, Gilbert Ledward and Henry Moore.
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
Although the remark about Moore’s attractiveness might sound somewhat flippant, it taps into the construction of a developing public persona. In his essay on Moore’s studio-homes between 1926 and 1946, art historian and curator Jon Wood identified an important passage in the Yorkshire Evening News from February 1928, which provides an evocative description of Moore as the rugged, elemental artist embedded in (and with) the materials of his work: ‘you will probably find him dressed in an old pair of flannels, dilapidated shoes, and a shirt that is well covered with dust. And if you ask him why he is like that he will tell you that you cannot be dandified when you work with clay and huge lumps of Portland stone’.31 A photograph taken outside the Royal College of Art in the summer of 1929 (fig.1) illustrates the distinction between Moore and the previous generation of sculptor-teachers who were both his colleagues and critics. In his role as a ‘Visitor’ (in practice an external examiner for the Diplomas) the sculptor Alfred Drury (1856–1944) can be seen stood in the doorway to the left, looking very much the late Victorian gentlemen in his three–piece suit. Standing behind him is Gilbert Ledward (1888–1960), the academic Professor of Sculpture at the time. He would be replaced the following year by Richard Garbe (1876–1957) after having resigned in protest of Rothenstein’s continued support of Moore.32 Leaning casually against the doorframe on the right is the thirty-one-year-old Henry Moore, wearing a jacket that does not match his trousers.
By this time Moore was teaching around twenty students in the sculpture school. Despite their generally positive assessment of his teaching methods, his avant-garde position and increasing public visibility through exhibitions and interviews made him a target and a risk.33 He recalled: ‘there was an article in the paper saying that I was corrupting the young with my ideas and I lost the job. So that wasn’t much fun’.34 The articles in question were published in the Morning Post, whose critic launched a sustained and vitriolic campaign against Moore, his work and his approach to teaching. The opening salvo was published in response to Moore’s first solo show at the Warren Gallery in 1928:
There is on view ... an exhibition of statuary and drawings which must raise furious thoughts in the minds of those responsible for the teaching at the Royal College of Art ... One does not expect every art master to be a genius ... But a master in a national school of art should be generally in touch with what philosophers call the minute infinity of trifling causes, and, in particular, should be a man of taste with a keen sense of form. Visitors to Mr Moore’s exhibition may think that neither qualification is conspicuous.35
Three years later the rhetoric continued in much the same register, albeit expressed with a more forceful and urgent concern over Moore’s pernicious influence on his students. The increase in the temperature of the criticism levelled at Moore was no doubt caused by his increasing public profile:
We apologise for publishing even a photograph of the least objectionable of Mr Henry Moore’s statuary ... For surely most people will hold it to be revolting as a representation ... and ignoble as a work of art ... What makes this kind of work all the more deplorable is that Mr Moore is paid by the nation to train its young men and women to become teachers or professional sculptors ... Frankly, we think that Mr Moore’s work is a menace from which students at the Royal College should be protected.36
Moore was not sacked from the Royal College of Art but his position had become untenable. It was clear that his contract would not be renewed owing to external and internal opposition to his ways of working and teaching, and so he offered his resignation in 1931. Rothenstein’s reluctant acceptance reads:
My dear Moore,
It is with particular regret that I accept your decision to give up your work at the College. Under the circumstances, however, I feel this to be inevitable. I should like to take this opportunity of telling you how sensible I am of your services to the Sculpture School of the College. I know that everything you have told the students has come from your own inner experience, and ever since you have been at the College, both as a student and as a member of the staff, I have recognised your single mindedness and sincerity. I hope and believe you will make the best possible use of the fuller working hours freedom from teaching will bring you. I am sending your letter to the Board [of Education] with my own personal expressions of regret.
Believe me, my dear Moore,
Ever yours sincerely,
W. Rothenstein.37
Moore did not quite have the financial independence, however, to enjoy the ‘freedom from teaching’ that Rothenstein had hoped for. He described his circumstances as follows: ‘I started selling enough, just enough, and then I got a job at Chelsea College of Art. The real income was the two days’ teaching’.38 As with many artists before and since Moore, teaching on a part-time basis was at least partially a pragmatic decision, taken to facilitate the extension of a sculptural practice that often required the speculative purchase of expensive tools, materials and technical assistance. Writing in 1967, Moore summarised his time at the Royal College of Art as ‘happy and productive years’. He continued: ‘I think I got strength from fighting the academic restrictions and prejudices. It was a preparation for meeting the wide-spread philistine atmosphere which prevailed in England up to 1940 towards the so-called Modern Art.’39

Chelsea School of Art 1931–39

Despite having left the Royal College of Art under a cloud, Moore went to enjoy a creative and contented period in both his life and work, not having to work alongside ‘incompatible colleagues’ being an important factor in this respect.40 He was employed as Head of the Sculpture Department by the Principal of Chelsea School of Art, the Leeds-born artist Harold Sandys Williamson, who was only six years older than Moore and had himself studied at Leeds College of Art between 1911 and 1914. It was Moore’s task to establish a ‘proper’ sculpture school at Chelsea and much of his teaching was in both drawing and modelling from life. Moore recalled in 1979 that, ‘to begin with I only had three or four students who wanted to do sculpture, and I think there was some exam in which (other) students were supposed to do a bit of modelling. My class was in a tiny room at the bottom of the corridor. You couldn’t have got more than seven or eight stands around the model’.41 Moore’s colleague at Chelsea, the artist Graham Sutherland (1903–1980), described the demographic of their student body in fairly disparaging terms: ‘the majority of the students were very “debby” [debutantes]. One and a half per cent were worth the trouble: the odd eccentric, and retired naval people (even admirals) were the ones, apart from the exceedingly rare genius’.42 The actor Dirk Bogarde (1921–1999) studied at Chelsea under both Sutherland and Moore between 1938 and 1939. In the memoir of his early life, A Postillion Struck by Horses (1977), he recalled the ‘pretty girls with long blonde hair who were really not serious artists, but merely “Finishing Orf [sic]”, as they called it’.43 Bogarde also described his experiences of the drawings classes led by Moore:
Smocked, with a woolly tie, he too moved among his pupils quietly and gently, correcting and suggesting here and there, patient with the slow, glowing with the more advanced of us. Wanting to share his obvious delight and love of the Human Body ... But it took me a long time to come towards sharing his delight. And although I sat spellbound if he came to my board to tug a muscle or joint into place, or scribbled a rapid explanation for me on the side of my disorder, erased, smudged drawing, his swathed, mostly faceless figures reminded me a little too sharply of Mr Dodd’s mummies ever to re-kindle a dying interest in the Human Form. I served him better in Perspective, and he was encouraging and kind, and when I said, rather timidly, that I wanted to go into stage design rather than any other form of art he set to with enthusiasm and bashed into me Vanishing Points and Source of Light.44
In The Life of Henry Moore (1987) Berthoud continued his portrayal of this period as relatively carefree and undemanding: ‘with its good company, agreeable lunches in nearby King’s Road pubs and abundance of pretty girls, Chelsea was a pleasant environment even if the repetition involved in continuous teaching became wearisome’.45 By the middle of the 1930s, however, Moore was beginning to consider the possibility of a permanent hiatus from teaching, having calculated that it would take £400 per year to sustain his practice as a sculptor on a full-time basis.46 In his biography of Moore published in 1985, William Packer concluded that ‘without doubt by now he would have liked to resign all regular commitment to teaching had he been able to afford to do so’.47 The outbreak of the Second World War and the evacuation of the Chelsea School of Art provided Moore with an opportunity to bring his tenure as a teacher to a close, although he retained ties with the School into the early 1950s as a visiting artist.48
The sculptor Ghisha Koenig (1921–1993) studied at Chelsea from 1946 to 1948 and, speaking in 1988, provided a disparaging account of Moore’s occasional teaching visits. There was ‘no sense of adventure to the classes ... He didn’t relate to us as human beings ... He is not the great sculptor because he hasn’t a real vision’.49 A much more positive appraisal was given by the sculptor Elisabeth Frink (1930–1993), who was a student at Chelsea from 1949 to 1953. She recalled fondly: ‘Henry Moore had a profound effect on me when he visited from time to time. Apart from his work, which I admired very much, he was inspiring to talk to and took an interest in each student’s work’.50 The two experiences appear absolutely contradictory, but the comparison only underlines the subjective relationship between teacher and student, particularly in the arena of the studio ‘crit’ where intellectual and emotional investment in the work can result in an intense encounter with lasting implications for the student. Liberated from the repetition and commitment of teaching as a profession, Moore had entered a phase in his career where it became possible to mentor young artists beyond the restrictions of the art school curriculum. All that he had learnt through teaching at the Royal College of Art and Chelsea School of Art would be applied to the development of his many studio assistants who would enable him to realise ever more ambitious works and, in doing so, begin their own careers as independent artists.

Reflections and philosophy: ‘hit it with a stick’

Henry Moore’s reflections on his teaching practice, very much like his reflections on his practice as a sculptor, can be both illuminating and contradictory. In 1937, while still teaching part-time at Chelsea School of Art, Moore wrote the following as part of an article in the Listener called ‘The Sculptor Speaks’:
It is a mistake for a sculptor to speak or write very often about his job. It releases tension needed for his work. By trying to express his aims with rounded-off logical exactness, he can easily become a theorist whose actual work is only a caged-in exposition evolved in terms of logic and words. But though the non-logical, instinctive, subconscious part of the mind must play its part in his work, he also has a conscious mind which is not inactive ... It is likely, then, that a sculptor can give, from his own conscious experience, clues which will help others in their approach to sculpture.51
His reservations about articulating his practice may have been firmly held at this point, particularly having been burnt by his character assassination in the Morning Post. He did not, however, remain silent on the matter of his teaching philosophy, and further ‘clues’ emerge from the reflections of his students. It appears that above all, Moore attempted to inculcate precision without preciousness. Elizabeth Ramsden, a student of his at the Royal College in 1928, recalled his motto: ‘“Hit it with a stick” (i.e. don’t fiddle around), the stick being seventeen inches long and one and three-quarter inches wide and intended for knocking clay into shape’.52 Although the message appeared simple, ‘hit it with a stick’ embodied all Moore had rejected, appropriated and synthesised as both a student and a teacher.
One of the more consistent messages Moore delivered later in his career was the extent to which teaching was a learning experience in itself, requiring the conceptualisation and communication of both theory and practice:
The first two or three years of teaching your own subject is as much a way of learning for the teachers as for the students themselves. I remember I used to be very surprised quite often at the things I discovered while teaching, the actual sentences, the words ... after a few years of teaching then I think it isn’t a very good thing, because there comes a stage when you have to repeat things that you think are fundamental in the training of a sculptor. They become a deadening thing.53
Moore reaffirmed this belief some twenty years later: ‘when you first begin teaching, you are teaching yourself. I learned a lot that way. You are trying to put into words and explain something that you haven’t perhaps thought about before, or hadn’t consciously realized. A certain amount of teaching is a good thing – it’s only bad when it becomes repetition’.54 It would be inaccurate to suggest, however, that all his teaching was progressive and self-determined.
On the question of drawing, Moore appears to have employed a strategy that would fit seamlessly into a model of art and design education he had otherwise worked to reject:
With teaching drawing, you can’t expect a student to draw something moving about all the time. They must learn with something quite easy – a peg, a bottle – if they can’t do that, how the hell can they draw a human figure? In the early stages, you would direct the model for them, let them do three or four main positions: standing pose, reclining figure, seated figure, then you’d progress to a walking or running figure.55
There is nothing revolutionary or radical about this method based on linear progression from the simple to the complex. Indeed, the use of ‘type solids’ (plaster spheres, cones, cubes and other simple geometrical forms) was integral to the nineteenth-century mode from which he had sought to distance himself. Moore extended and reshaped the relationship between the sculptor and the sculptural tradition by questioning the uncritical reverence towards Greco-Roman statuary at the expense of a broader chronology and geography that could be mobilised and made relevant to the concerns of the interwar period. Moore was a reflexive teacher who understood what he stood to gain from the process for his own development as a sculptor. He grappled towards a more open-ended, experimental pedagogy that could be at once loose and rigorous, although his approach was limited by a centralised system of examinations administered by the Board of Education. Assessment of student work would not be devolved to local art schools until the 1960s with the introduction of the Diploma in Art and Design (DipAD) in 1962. Through his advocacy of the ‘removal of the Greek spectacles from the eyes of the modern sculptor’ Moore’s experimental and intuitive approach to form and materiality can perhaps be said to prefigure the Basic Design Course that would become the standard mode of teaching and learning in art and design education in the second half of the twentieth century.56 Given the trajectory of its alumni, including, of course, Barbara Hepworth, it is perhaps no coincidence that one of the principal sites of the development of Basic Design was Leeds College of Art.57


Quoted in Alan Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershot 2002, p.40.
Quoted in Wilkinson 2002, p.41 and Herbert Read, Henry Moore: A Study of his Life and Work, London 1965, p.29.
Quoted in Philip James (ed.), Henry Moore on Sculpture, London 1966, p.31.
Quoted in Wilkinson 2002, p.33.
Ibid., p.42.
Ibid., p.43.
Paul Wood, ‘Between God and the Saucepan’, in The History of British Art: 1870–Now, ed. by Chris Stephens, vol.3, London 2008, p.169.
Fred Miller, The Training of a Craftsman, London 1898, p.4.
Ibid., pp.8–9. The West London School of Art was established under the Department of Science and Art in 1862 at 204 Great Portland Street, London.
Stuart Macdonald, The History and Philosophy of Art Education, London 1970, p.195.
Charles Eastlake, Daniel Maclise and Richard Redgrave, Reports on the Works Sent from Various Schools of Ornamental Art, and Exhibited at Marlborough House in May 1852, London 1852, pp.17–18.
Quoted in Wilkinson 2002, p.114.
The Council of the Head School of Design granted the following: ‘1 Bust of Apollo, 1 Bust of Niobe, 1 Bust of Antinous, 11 copies by Machinery of Antique Statues, 4 pieces Trajan Frieze, 16 hands and feet, 2 Anatomical Arm & Leg, 2 pieces Roman Arabesque, 1 Roman Cornice, 2 pieces from door of St. John’. They were supplemented with the following purchases: Fighting Gladiator, Venus Milos, Germanicus, Venus de Medici, Discobolus and ‘Parts of Figures’. Minutes of the Sub Committee of the Leeds School of Design (1844–54), Committee Meeting 2 November 1846, West Yorkshire Archive Service Leeds, WYL368/23.
John Hedgecoe (ed.), Henry Moore: My Ideas, Inspiration and Life as an Artist, London 1986, p.31.
Quoted in Wilkinson 2002, p.42.
Matthew Withey, ‘Evolving Forms: From Modelling to Carving in the Sculpture Department 1919–39’, in Behind The Mosaic: One Hundred Years of Art Education, ed. by Corinne Miller, Leeds 2003, p.47.
A modelling class was set up at the Leeds School of Design in 1848, the year after teaching had started there. Report of the Committee of the Government School of Design, Leeds 1848, pp.1–2.
Wilkinson 2002, p.33. Herbert Read suggested that Derwent Wood did not teach very much, being ‘so overwhelmed by commissions for war memorials ... leaving such duties to an assistant, Will Coxon. More important, from Henry’s point of view, was an assistant named Barry Hart whose duty it was to instruct him in the technique of stone-carving, pointing, etc. With Hart, and without the approval of his professors, Henry was allowed in his second year to experiment in direct carving’. Read 1965, p.32.
Quoted in Wilkinson 2002, p.47.
Christopher Neve, Leon Underwood, Bradford 1974, p.75.
Henry Moore and others, ‘Portraits of the Artists as Young Men’, Royal College of Art Supplement, Times, 2 November 1967, p.vi.
Derwent Wood was replaced by Ernest Cole, who was against the appointment of Moore. Herbert Read described the tense situation that followed: ‘a period of endless arguments with his superior. Cole remained at loggerheads with Sir William Rothenstein and eventually resigned. He was succeeded by Gilbert Ledward, but his point of view was no less academic and at the end of two years he presented Rothenstein with an ultimatum – he would not continue to work with Moore. Ledward was succeeded by Richard Garbe, a Royal Academician whose prejudices were even stronger than those of his predecessor’. Read 1965, p.35. See also Roger Berthoud, The Life of Henry Moore, New York 1987, p.87.
Hedgecoe 1986, p.77.
National Museum Directors’ Conference, Too Much Stuff? Disposal from Museums, 2003, p.10.
Prospectus of the Royal College of Art 1926–1927, London 1926, p.13.
Ibid., p.21.
Berthoud 1987, pp.87–8, derived from letters to Berthoud from Jack Clarkson, dated 12 and 22 April 1985. Berthoud noted that Jackson later became the Principal of the School of Art at Newcastle-under-Lyme.
Ibid., p.88, derived from letters to Berthoud from Alma Ramsey, dated 3 and 26 January 1985.
Quoted in Jon Wood, ‘A Household Name: Henry Moore’s Studio-Homes and their Bearings, 1926–46’, in Jane Beckett and Fiona Russell (eds.), Henry Moore: Critical Essays, Aldershot 2003, p.23.
Read 1965, p.35.
Berthoud 1987, pp.88–9.
Hedgecoe 1986, p.77.
Morning Post, 28 January 1928.
Morning Post, 14 April 1931.
William Rothenstein, letter to Henry Moore, 14 January 1931. Moore was replaced as Assistant in the Sculpture School by Herbert William Palliser (1883–1963). See Prospectus of the Royal College of Art, S. Kensington, London Session 1931–1932, London 1931, p.20.
Hedgecoe 1986, p.77.
Henry Moore and others, ‘Portraits of the Artists as Young Men’, 1967 p.vi.
Berthoud 1987, p.118 and 122.
Ibid., p.123.
Graham Sutherland, letter to Roger Berthoud, January 1980, quoted in Roger Berthoud, Graham Sutherland: A Biography, London 1982, p.65. Sutherland was recommended to teach engraving at Chelsea in late 1926. Like Moore, he taught for two days each week in term time. From 1933 onwards, he taught illustration and composition.
Dirk Bogarde, A Postillion Struck by Horses, London 1977, p.195. In April 1939 the diarist Joan Wyndham entered Chelsea School of Art, who would almost certainly have been described as ‘Debby’ by Graham Sutherland. She wrote of her first day: ‘I was interviewed by the head, who is long and thin, and after signing various forms and paying my thirty bob, I was escorted to the sculpture room and introduced to Henry Moore. The great man is small and brown with magnetic blazing blue eyes. I thought he looked about forty. He had rather flat brown hair, wore a navy sweater, and smoked. I checked a morbid desire to address him as “Maître”. As I had done no modelling before I was put into a little cubby hole off the main studios and given a plastic head of an oriental lady to copy. Moore knocked me up an armature, flung a lump of clay and some calipers at me, and told me to enjoy myself’. Joan Wyndham, Love Lessons: A Wartime Journal, London 1985, p.48.
Ibid., p.197.
Berthoud 1987, p.123.
Berhoud 1982, p.86.
William Packer, Henry Moore: An Illustrated Biography, London 1985, p.97.
Berthoud 1987, p.195. Moore retains a presence at Chelsea through the display of his monumental bronze Two-Piece Reclining Figure No.1 1959, which was purchased for £7,500 in 1963 and installed on 25 March 1964 to mark the completion of the new building on Manresa Road. See Natasha De Samarkandi, Don’t Do Any More Henry Moore: Henry Moore and the Chelsea School of Art, London 2010, p.9.
Ghisha Koenig speaking in February 1988, England and Moore: Bernard Meadows, Stephen Spender, Ghisha Koenig, ICA TV London 1988. Sound recording and film reels. 85 minutes.
Bryan Robertson, ‘Introduction and a Dialogue’ in Elisabeth Frink Sculpture: Catalogue Raisonné, Salisbury 1984, pp.28–9.
Quoted in David Sylvester, Henry Moore. Volume1: Sculpture and Drawings 1921–1948, London 1957, p.xxxiii (originally published as ‘The Sculptor Speaks’, Listener, 18 August 1937).
Berthoud 1987, p.88, derived from an interview with Elizabeth Collins, March 1985.
Quoted in Wilkinson 2002, pp.54–5.
Hedgecoe 1986, p.96.
Henry Moore, ‘Contemporary English Sculptors: Henry Moore’, Architectural Association Journal, May 1930. See also Richard Hamilton, Tom Hudson, Victor Pasmore and Harry Thubron, The Developing Process: Work in Progress towards a New Foundation of Art Teaching as Developed at the Department of Fine Art, King's College, Durham University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, and at Leeds College of Art, Durham 1959.
See Paul Barlow, ‘Fear and Loathing of the Academic, or Just What Is It That Makes the Avant-Garde So Different, So Appealing?’, in Rafael Cardoso Denis and Colin Trodd (eds.), Art and the Academy in the Nineteenth Century, Manchester 2000, pp.15–32, Stuart Macdonald, ‘Basic Design and Visual Education’, History and Philosophy of Art Education, London 1970, pp.365–78; Inés Plant, ‘The Leeds Experiment: The Story of a New Creativity’, in Corinne Miller (ed.), Behind The Mosaic: One Hundred Years of Art Education, Leeds 2003, pp.61–9, and Richard Yeomans, ‘Basic Design and the Pedagogy of Richard Hamilton’ in Mervyn Romans (ed.) Histories of Art and Design Education: Collected Essays, Bristol 2005, pp.195–210.
Dr Rebecca Wade is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at The Henry Moore Institute, Leeds.

How to cite

Rebecca Wade, ‘Learning from Moore between the Wars: Henry Moore as a Teacher at the Royal College of Art and Chelsea School of Art 1924–39’, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/henry-moore/rebecca-wade-learning-from-moore-between-the-wars-henry-moore-as-a-teacher-at-the-royal-r1151310, accessed 19 April 2024.