Modern Religious Art
From Our Art Critic
l'his statue of Our Lady and the Holy Child, which Henry Moore recently completed for the Anglican church of St. Matthew's in Northampton, may be pu7zling to some. The work is not what we have come to expect in church statues, and if this remark were made to the artist he might rightly reply that it would be unWorthy of its place if it were only what people imagine, for then It would be superfluous.
But apart from this point, Mr. Henry Moore has many illuminating cone ments to make which help in the understanding of this, one of the most , important pieces of contempreary religious sculpture to find its way into a church (where it belongs) Instead of a etueeum (where it usually goes).
He stlys it has been his intention to give his figure:, • dignity and gentleness. I have tried," he sun" to give a sense of complete easiness and repose, as though the Madonna cottki stay in that position for ever.' The Holy Child was for him always the centre of the work, and yet the subject speaks of the Incarnation—the fact that Christ was born of a human mother—and so Our Lady is concetved as any small child would in, essence think of his mother, not as small and frail. but as the .me. large, secure, solid background to life.
Humanity at its Highest
Here then is pictured humanity at its highest dignity . here is symbolised all that is best in motherhood as it appears to a small child. The Holy Child sits safely in His mother's lap with her protecting hands on Him, but He looks out quite unafraid, and her hands do not grip or restrain Him, for she offers Him to thc world, as He will offer Himself.
Our Lady looks away into the distance towards those who first approach the statue front afar, the Christ Child looks intently at those who stand straight in front of the statue only a few feet away.
The vicar of St. Matthews, the Rev. Walter Hussey, in a sermon before the unveiling of the statue, told this story to debunk those critics who tended to dub the work " highbrow " and to condemn it accordingly as intellectually out of reach for the man-in-the-street.
"The local baker in tin' village where Mr. Moore lives." said the vicar. " saw the statue soon after h was begun, and he was frankly puzzled and unmoved; thereafter he saw it at least once a week for five months, he looked at it and thought about it, and before the end of those months he had begun to learn whitt it had to sal and he exclaimed that it was magnificent," Mr Moore, in much of his secular sculpture, has dealt with the theme of the mother dnd child, so that the choice of this artist for the subject was particularly appropriate Of the elevating of his theme from secular to sacred, Mr. Moore says " it is not easy to describe in words the difference except by saying in general terms that the ' Madonna and Child ' should have an austerity and a nobility, and some touch of grandeur (even hieratic aloofness) which is missing in the everyday Mother and Child idea."