Page 3, 8th July 1960

8th July 1960
Page 3
Page 3, 8th July 1960 — Pictures in Church: No. 5og H ENRY MOORE approached his commission

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Pictures in Church: No. 5og H ENRY MOORE approached his commission

for a Madonna and Child for Northampton with a certain trepidation. It is interesting, now we are familiar with what seems so assured a piece. of work, to hear in his own words the artist's uncertainties. "When I was first asked to carve a Madonna and Child for St. Matthew's," he writes. "although I was very interested I wasn't sure whether I could do it, or whether I even wanted to do it.


ONE knows that religion IL/has been the inspiration of most of Europe's greatest painting and sculpture, and that the Church in the past has encouraged and employed the greatest artists, but the great tradition of religious art seems to have got lost completely in the present day and the general level of church art has fallen very low (as anyone can see from the affected and sentimental prettiness sold for church decoration in church art shops. Therefore I felt it was not a commission straight away and lightheartedly to agree to undertake and I could only promise to make notehook drawings front which I would do small clay models and only then should I be able to say whether I could produce something which would be satisfactory as sculpture and satisfy my idea of the Madonna and Child theme as well "I began thinking of the Madonna and Child for St. Mathew's considering in what ways a Madonna and Child differs from a carving of just a mother and child-that is by considering how in my opinion religious art differs from secular art. It is not easy to describe in words what this difference is, 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 mother and child idea. Of the sketches and models I have done, the one chosen for Northampton has I think a quiet dignity and gentleness. I have tried to givea sense of complete easiness and repose, as though the Madonna could stay in that position for ever (as being in stone she will have to do)."

LATER Moore carried out a second Madonna and Child from his original sketches, which is illustrated here. The shoulders, arms, and hands of Our Lady are built to shelter in a perfect circle the Child's human helplessness. The hands are most expressive; linked together so restfully they imply the whole of the ecre ancilla Domini in their acceptance of Ciod's will.

Both the Suffolk and the Northampton Madonnas are works of strong humanistic appeal. Spiritual qualities are there, too. and they make themselves felt the longer these works are contemplated. Both have an indefinable presence which is remembered by all those who have seen them and the memory of it lasts when the details have been forgotten.


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