Henry Moore and Harlow
In 1953 Henry Moore was asked to make a sculpture for the new town of Harlow but why did he choose to make a family?
Find out a bit more about the artist and his work and the town of Harlow and then decide what you would make for your town or village? We all have a public sculpture somewhere near us but why is it there and what does it add?
Key Stage:KS3&4 Art and Design
Overview:A lesson plan inspired by the work of sculptor Henry Moore and commissioning of public sculpture for the new town of Harlow by Harlow Art Trust
This lesson can be used:
-to develop drawing skills and use of sketchbooks to develop ideas
-to produce creative work, exploring their ideas
-evaluate and analyse creative works
About the artist. Henry MooreHenry Moore died in 1986 but he is still best known for his large scale public sculptures many of which can still be seen today. As well as sculpture, Moore produced a famous series of drawings depicting Londoners sheltering from the Blitz during WW2. Many of Henry Moore's sculptures are derived from the female body, apart from a period in the 1950s when he sculpted family groups. In 1953 he was asked to make a public sculpture for the new town of Harlow in Essex. It was one of his first public commissions and he chose to carve a mother, father and child from a large block of Hadene stone from a quarry in Derbyshire.
Harlow Sculpture TownHarlow is now known as a sculpture town with over eighty sculptures sited around the town. This came about because of the work of Harlow Art Trust. Henry Moore was known to several members of the Trust and lived nearby in Perry Green. Moore accepted the commission with enthusiasm and suggested making a group 'conceived on human and classical lines' for a site near St Mary-at-Latton Church. Unveiled in May 1956 by Sir Kenneth Clark. He congratulated Harlow "for maintaining the great tradition of urban civilisation in making a work of art a focal centre of a new town". (photo credit Henry Moore Foundation)
New TownsHarlow new town was planned to relocate people from poor or bombed-out housing in London following the Second World War. The town planner, Sir Frederick Gibberd worked with Sylvia Crowe the landscape architect on Harlow's design and sculpture was planned into the design from the start.
The theme of the family could not have been more appropriate. Known as 'pram town' in the 1950s, Harlow had a birthrate which was three times the national average.
The Family Group reviewed by local young peopleA group of students from Harlow find out about the sculpture and interview the current artistic director of the Harlow Art Trust. Watch the film and discuss the three reasons given for Moore choosing to depict a family. You might want to discuss if Henry Moore chose the wrong material to make a public sculpture given what has happened to the sculpture in the sixty years since it was made.
Suggested Classroom Activity
Henry Moore chose to depict a family made up of a father, a mother and a child for 1950's Harlow. You could discuss if this vision of the family still relevant today?
At the time the new towns were seen as part of a great welfare reform driven by the post war Labour Government that also introduced the NHS. The new towns were meant to provide a better future for people and art was seen to be part of that improvement. Is this now outdated?
Suggested Classroom Activity cont
If a family with a young child is no longer a relevant symbol of an optimistic future what is? What sculpture would you design for a public space in the middle of your town or village?
Write down some bullet points for themes that might be suitable for a new sculpture. Quickly sketch some ideas in a sketch book.
Suggested Classroom Activity cont
Now develop one of your ideas up by drawing it again but this time onto a sheet of clear acetate. Use a permanent marker for this. You can use coloured marker pens but the next stage is to photograph the design in the landscape and black does work best for this. So take your acetate sheet outside and photograph your sculpture design in a space where a sculpture might go. You can change the scale by moving the camera back and forth.
Document and evaluate
Try photographing your sculpture design in different locations and see where it works best. Print a series of photos of your design in different locations and make a decision about where the public sculpture should be sited. Get the views of others in your group as to where the sculpture looks best.