Contextual Research CPS 3302 Studio Practice 3301 Year 3

Contextual Post – Henry Moore (sheep drawings)

Henry Moore was an English artist who mainly focused on sculpture but relied on drawings to develop his ideas. He also did some printmaking throughout his career.

Although I find all of Henry Moore’s work captivating, I am going to be focusing on researching his sheep drawings as I feel that they correlate with my project subject very well and could help my methods of capturing primary evidence at farms as I’m usually quite particular about things but Henry Moore’s sketchy approach would be very beneficial to help boost the amount of imagery I have to work with and take further in my paintings.

Information about Henry Moore Sheep Sketchbook – In February 1972, Henry Moore was based in his sculpture studios a lot to prepare for an upcoming exhibition. His studios were based in the countryside and he desired a place for peace and quiet so went into a room where he could view fields where sheep were grazed by a local farmer.

The sheep came up close to the window and so Henry Moore started sketching them. Initially, he only viewed them as balls of wool but as he started to pay more attention to their way of life, the way they moved, the shape of their bodies beneath the fleece, he got more understanding of them. They had strong human/biblical associations – the sight of an ewe with a lamb evoked strong mother and child themes (large form sheltering small form) which has been important to Henry Moore throughout his artwork.

He drew the sheep again that summer after they were shorn so he was able to see the shapes of the bodies properly without their wool getting in the way. With a solid form and vigorous movement, the sheep are captured in a network of swirling and zigzagging lines using a ballpoint pen.

The effect is both familiar and monumental; as Lord Clark comments, ‘We expect Henry Moore to give a certain nobility to everything he draws; but more surprising is the way in which these drawings express a feeling of real affection for their subject.’

Although I know that this is an etching and drypoint piece, it reminds me of a biro drawing which I find interesting. I love the way the wool has been built up with a lot of mark-making as it looks realistic. I find the gaze of the mother sheep effective in engaging with the viewer and having a direct confrontation/communication with the viewer. It makes me think that the mother sheep is having a protective stance over her lamb. The fact that Henry Moore included grass in certain areas is nice as it doesn’t take away from the main subject as it’s not too overpowering.

Again, the gaze of this mother sheep is directed towards the viewer which is interesting and as a result of the sheep being interested in what Henry Moore was doing at the time. The build-up of mark-making makes it clear that the image was done in real-time from life and the different marks being random really emphasises this. The horizontal lines in the background make the sheep stand out and add variation to the piece.

The addition of watercolour in this piece creates a nice effect as you can actually imagine the real-life scene that Henry Moore witnessed at the time. It also makes it seem like it’s a dull foggy day which is interesting in making people think about how animals are outside most if not all of the time and they don’t have the luxury of having a roof over their head. The amount of contrast in this piece is very eye-catching and makes me look at the piece for a long time as the more you look the more details you pick up on. Again, the gaze of the sheep being focused on the viewer is interesting and makes the viewer feel as though they are connected to the sheep in some way, as they matter to them.

How Henry Moore’s sheep drawings influence my work:

Henry Moore’s sheep drawings show the importance of working directly from life as you create more life-like drawings than if you were to work from photographs. This is due to the dimensions and angles that you see in real life while photographs flatten things, making them two-dimensional. The work also shows the importance of mark-making for texture as without the build-up of marks, Moore wouldn’t have created such realistic works. I feel inspired by the way the animals gaze is most of the time directed towards the viewer, staring or making contact as this can create sympathy or feelings for the animals which is something I explore in my own work and something I could take further using Henry Moore’s work as an inspiration. Although Moore hasn’t done any continuous line drawings, the build-up of marks in some of his works remind me of them and so I feel that I should apply that to my drawings of farm animals from life to ensure that I have a lot of good imagery to develop in my paintings. The combinations of mediums allow Moore to create effects that show different times of day/year which could benefit my work in terms of creating sympathy for the animals out in the cold during the night.

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