The Art of Poetry
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The Art of Poetry
26th January - 26th February 2021
Henry Moore (1898 – 1986) is one of the most significant Modern British artists. He was mainly known as a sculptor whose organically shaped, semi-abstract and often monumental bronze and stone figures made him one of the most important sculptors of the twentieth century and has made a lasting impact on this medium. He was also a prolific draftsman and printmaker, conveying these sculptural forms onto paper. This month’s online exhibition explores the graphic side of Moore’s practice and provides an insight into his connection with the literary world.
The works in our presentation focus on lithographic prints created for La Poésie (Poetry) that were made between 1973-76. Moore was invited to illustrate a group of French poets selected by the French President at the time, Georges Pompidou. This would be one of the last artistic projects that Pompidou would be involved in, as he would reach the end of his life in the spring of 1974. The poets selected included the literary greats including Racine, Gérard de Nerval, Victor Hugo, Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Valéry. The idea was to develop illustrations that resonated with the literary quotations chosen. Moore had a head start, by creating images first, as the texts were later in arriving than expected. Themes that he had visited in his previous prints such as sculptural and stone forms, standing and reclining figures would recur. The tonality and colour palette used for La Poésie have a slightly dream-like atmosphere and delicate quality, with the forms and figures given generous space.
This print accompanied the quote by Racine: “Et les siècles obscurs devant moi se découvrent.”
The project inspired a new way of working in lithography for Moore. In collaboration with the legendary print studio Curwen Studios, the artist developed a new technical process called ‘diazo lithography’. The prints were made by drawing onto a thin transparent film with black lithographic ink or semi-opaque liquid. The image was then transferred to the plate by ultra-violet light. The strength of the image depended on the length of exposure, allowing the image to be made up a series of tonal layers from one original.
The prints are comprised of a mixture of those from the edition on Arches wove paper as well as several rare proofs on Japon nacré paper, which has a delicate texture and sheen. They come from the private collection of the publisher, Félia Léal, who was a publisher of artists’ books. She was the director of the Association de Bibliophiles Art et Poésie, the publisher of the present series of prints. Léal had been known among artists’ circles, including being friends with Pablo Picasso.
The above three lithographs were originally made to introduce the set of prints in La Poésie.
…Oui, c’est pour moi, pour moi, que je fleuris, déserte!
In Ideas from a Sketchbook Moore drew on two layers of film: one for the background, another for the figures. Both films were exposed twice to make four plates. After proofing, the colours ranges were decided upon. Here we see that the background was printed in ochre and light ochre, and the figure in grey and brown. The result is a four-colour lithograph printed from four plates.
Le don de vivre a passé dans les fleurs!
Une dame créole aux charmes ignorés.
Ils reviendront, ces dieux que tu pleures toujours!
Gérard de Nerval
This image echoes the composition chosen for the slipcase of the portfolio and was therefore entitled Slipcase.