Henry Moore: The Helmet Heads
The Wallace Collection
Until June 23
Review by Barbara Lewis.

 

Visitors to the opulent Wallace Collection in fashionable Marylebone tend to be drawn to the aristocratic joy of Fragonard’s The Swing or the staggeringly ornate clocks.

But for Henry Moore, inspiration came from the austere thrills of the collection’s suits of armour and the combination of style and function that prevailed in helmets from ancient Greek times to the Middle Ages before finding new and sinister forms in the 20th-century world wars.

In the first exhibition to explore the evolution of Moore’s artistic obsession, the Wallace Collection brings together more than sixty sketches, drawings, maquettes and full-sized sculptures in plaster, lead and bronze, culminating in his seven Helmet Heads.

We peer at Moore’s tiny early horse sculpture in a pose redolent of the tension of combat and marvel, as Moore might have during his many visits to the Wallace Collection, at the craftsmanship behind the full suit of armour of King Vladislaus II of Bohemia and Hungary.

We also draw the connection with Moore’s own time on the battlefield when it is assumed he wore a Brodie helmet, nicknamed Salatschussel (salad bowl) by the Germans.

Real war experience gives Moore authority as he makes us aware of the potency of the helmet as at once a source of protection and a projection of power; as an extension of human form, it reminds us of our vulnerability and our craved-for invincibility.

Only slightly more tenuously, the exhibition finds a link between the idea of armour and Moore’s Internal/External sculptures, in which the outer layers protect inner structures. It’s not too great a leap to see the sculptor as the person who breaks through the outer shell to reveal the essence of the stone within.

If war made Moore’s fascination with armour a compulsion, its trauma required distance before he could fully address it.

This refreshingly concise exhibition builds up to the first display in one place of Moore’s seven Helmet heads, created between 1950 and 1975, when world war had given way to more local, but still deadly struggles.

In terms of aesthetic, you could prefer the simplicity of the Renaissance barbutes and sallets, but Moore’s ominous bronzes give us a far more three-dimensional sense of the twisting, anxious complexity contained within.

Barbara Lewis © 2019.

Copy of LH 652 bronze_Nigel Moore_5.
Copy of LH296.
Copy of Portrait of Henry Moore with Helmet Head No. 2_LH281_Henry Moore Archive.
Copy of Sallet or Barbuta credit Wallace Collection.
Copy of Wallace_A82 3-4.
1_Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation. (c) The Wallace Collection.
2_Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation. (c) The Wallace Collection.
3_Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation. (c) The Wallace Collection.
4_Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation. (c) The Wallace Collection.
5_Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation. (c) The Wallace Collection.
6_Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation. (c) The Wallace Collection.
7_Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation. (c) The Wallace Collection.
8_Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation. (c) The Wallace Collection.
9_Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation. (c) The Wallace Collection.
10_Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation. (c)The Wallace Collection.
Copy of A22.
Copy of A70_3.
Copy of A74 left 3-4 high.
Copy of A74_2.
Copy of A74_5.
Copy of A75 detail_1.
Copy of A75 detail_3.
Copy of A75 detail_4.
Copy of A75_2.
Copy of A75_3.
Copy of A77_1.
Copy of A78 detail_1.
Copy of A78 detail_2.
Copy of A78_2.
Copy of A85 3-4.
Copy of A85 left.
Copy of A154 3-4.
Copy of CGM 3 [EC1]_SM copy.
Copy of EX002_Tate_T02273_H.
Copy of EX036_HMF 1231 verso.
Copy of EX038_HMF 1225.
Copy of Helmet Head No1 1950 bronze.
Copy of HMF 84_Menor.
Copy of HMF 1195.
Copy of HMF 1381_MP.
Copy of HMF 1425 Max copy.
Copy of HMF 1494_D Rudkin.
Copy of HMF 1508.
Copy of HMF 2662 verso_Menor.
Copy of HMF 2697_Menor.
Copy of IMG_8419.
Copy of IMG_8420.
Copy of IMG_8421 1.
Copy of IMG_8422.
Copy of IMG_8423.
Copy of LH 186 cast hm_008_IMG_9610-Edit.
Copy of LH 209_Nigel Moore_2.
Copy of LH 212_IMG_9156.
Copy of LH 212_IMG_9157.
Copy of LH 279 cast HM1_001 copy.
Copy of LH 279 cast HM1_002 copy.
Copy of LH 279 cast HM1_004 copy.
Copy of LH 279 cast HM1_007 copy.
Copy of LH 279 cast HM2_001 copy.
Copy of LH 279 cast HM2_003 copy.
Copy of LH 280 cast1_001 copy.
Copy of LH 282 cast1_005 copy.
Copy of LH 293a_Nigel Moore_6.
Copy of LH 304_1_SM.
Copy of LH 400b_Nigel Moore_6.
Copy of LH 467_004_max copy.
Copy of LH 467_006_max copy.
Copy of LH 467_MP3.
Copy of LH 467_plaster_IMG_9142.
Copy of LH 467_plaster_IMG_9143.
Copy of LH 467_plaster_IMG_9147.
Copy of LH 467_plaster-IMG_9148.
Copy of LH 507_Nigel Moore_2.
Copy of LH 508_003_max copy.
Copy of LH 508_063_max copy.
Copy of LH 524_013_max copy.
Copy of LH 650 bronze_Nigel Moore_5.
Copy of LH 650 bronze_Nigel Moore_9.
Copy of LH 650 primary_Menor_002.
Copy of LH 651_001 copy.
Copy of LH 651_003 copy.
Copy of LH 651_004 copy.
Copy of LH 651_014_max copy.
Copy of LH 651_021_max.
Copy of LH 651_036_max copy.
Copy of LH 651_043_max.
Copy of LH 652 bronze_Nigel Moore_5.
Copy of LH296.
Copy of Portrait of Henry Moore with Helmet Head No. 2_LH281_Henry Moore Archive.
Copy of Sallet or Barbuta credit Wallace Collection.
Copy of Wallace_A82 3-4.
1_Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation. (c) The Wallace Collection.
2_Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation. (c) The Wallace Collection.
3_Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation. (c) The Wallace Collection.
4_Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation. (c) The Wallace Collection.
5_Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation. (c) The Wallace Collection.