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HUMANITIES 285 John Hedgecoe. A Monumental Vision: The Sculpture ofHenry Moore Key Porter. 256. $65.00 John Hedgecoe is an eminent photographer and professor emeritus at the Royal College of Art in London. One may therefore expect his perception of Moore's work to be enlightening in unexpected ways. Equally, it is unsurprising that he expresses himself primarily in visual form; the brief text, which includes well-worn quotations from Moore's statements, is unremarkable. Hedgecoe contends that Moore's work is distinguished primarily by a monumental quality which imbues even the smallest pieces. This has little to do with Moore as an iImovatory creator of monuments in the years between 1944 and the later 19505 when he made a swathe ofhighly diverse pieces for public places which have social and, in some contexts, political resonances. The UNESCO commission, completed in 1958, initiated a move towards ever-larger works in ever-grander public spaces, as .well as a growing perception of uniformity in Moore's work which Hedgecoe vigorously challenges. It is a commonplace of the Moore literature that the artist's 'major influences' were 'the landscape, the body, primitive art.' Equally pervasive until very recently has been the convention of assessing Moore's work only in terms of these 'influences,' which he himself acknowledged. Hedgecoe conforms to this model in so far as he is not interested in the topicality of Moore's work, the associations and latent themes that embed it in its period, but rather in the analogies that confirm its place in 'nature.' Many of his images seek to set the sculpture in relation to a somewhat indeterminate atmosphere. Early in the book, a double-spread photograph of twisted trees and their exposed roots frames a romantically grainy Kenilworth Castle; later, a detail of the Draped Reclining Woman is inexplicably juxtaposed with an ice-floe. These are, nevertheless, photographs which invite - and reward - prolonged scrutiny, as do Hedgecoe's images of the Lanyon Quoit in Cornwall, an agricultural landscape, a nude model, and so on. Less obvious are his agenda and its inflections of Moore's work. The final section of the book takes the form of a catalogue, a 'visual compendium' assembled to show 'as many sculptural forms as possible.' With 780 entries this is a sizeable proportion of the ceuvre and a challenge to the scholarly orthodoxy of the six volumes, with 919 entries, of the Lund Humphries catalogue raisonne. These, with their monochrome, evenly lit, full-page photographs, are designed to impart nonpartisan information. Hedgecoe's catalogue photographs are large postage-stamp size, laid out approximately twenty-six to a double-page spread, with meticulous attention to the visual balance of the page (which is not to suggest that they are not also useful thematic summaries). For the early stone carving years the photographs are preponderantly monochrome, emphasizing texture 286 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 and chiaroscuro. For the work after the late 19605, which was virtually all in bronze, Hedgecoe uses colour with increasing frequency and drama, posing the sculptures against bright pink or buff grounds (subtly modu- . lated across the page) to display their range of patination. His emphasis is on surface, translated into pictorial terms, from grainy, soft-focus stone to the amazing range of colour that can be achieved in bronze. He translates Moore's work into pictorial form, suggesting a trajectory from the solidity of the eaJ;ly sculpture hewn from landscape to late works thathave the immaterialityofimages rather than objects, and the quality of painting with bronze. This is a highly prescriptive reading, underlined by the format and design of A Monumental Vision. If it is not convincing this is because Hedgecoe's enterprise has been to make an artist's book as much as a book about an artist; its implicit theme is an investigation of sculptural photography as an independent art from. There remains an unarticulated question about Moore's status. He was not, evidently, a Picasso, but the real stature of his work will only be fully acknowledged when webegin to treat himmore like Picasso and allow that his sculpture is susceptible to multiple and sophisticated readings and forms of analysis. Until then, it will...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 285-286
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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