Bill Brandt (1904–1983) and Henry Moore (1898–1986) first crossed paths during the Second World War, when each produced images of civilians sheltering in the London Underground during the Blitz: Brandt’s photographs and Moore’s shelter drawings today rank among the most iconic works in the artists’ oeuvres. This richly illustrated book begins with these wartime works and traces the parallel and intersecting paths of the two artists over the postwar decades.
Bill Brandt | Henry Moore is published by the Yale Center for British Art in association with Yale University Press. This fully illustrated catalogue coincides with a major exhibition of the same title organized by the Yale Center in partnership with The Hepworth Wakefield.
The book and the exhibition feature photographs, drawings, and sculptures that responded in real time to the terror and destruction of war. Brandt and Moore brought out the uncanny tomb-like conditions of underground tunnels and crypts that had been turned into makeshift domestic shelters.
Their dark, atmospheric images transformed the dismal ordeal of the blackout into elegiac and haunting compositions. Already during the war, Brandt’s photographs and Moore’s drawings were shown side by side in magazines and exhibitions.
Bill Brandt | Henry Moore brings together a series of penetrating portraits of Moore taken by Brandt over three decades. Alongside, their visual synchronicities and creative preoccupations are explored. Brandt’s images of unemployed families, coal miners, and housing estates from 1930s Depression-era Britain obliquely reflect Moore’s personal history as one of eight miner’s children in a Yorkshire colliery town. Moore’s own coal mining drawings contribute to a visual culture where coal was understood as vital to Britain’s survival.
On the flip side of these dark and claustrophobic wartime subjects are the isolated light- filled landscapes and great megalithic sites of Britain to which Brandt and Moore were drawn throughout their careers. During the pressured decades of the 1940s and 1950s, the ancient geology of the land offered powerful symbolism of Britain’s resilience.
In Brandt’s photographs and Moore’s sculptures and drawings, Stonehenge and Avebury appear as timeless emblems of national creativity and culture. Moore made it known that he used stone quarried in Britain, making his sculpture geologically and mythically British.
In the later decades, Brandt and Moore increasingly attended to intimate subjects that emphasized individual experience. Notwithstanding Moore’s growing importance as a public sculptor, for him as much as for Brandt, the subjectivity of nature and the human body became a primary focus.
The book reproduces little-known works in which found objects such as shells, pebbles, bones, and driftwood are explored as figurative sculptural forms—a shell could stand for a torso, a limb could become a pebble, a foot could resemble a cliff.
Brandt is revealed as a photographer attuned to the vitality of sculpture and the plastic potential of nature, landscape, and the body. Moore is shown to be a sculptor, draftsman, and collage artist who made a serious commitment to the art of the camera, not only to document his work but as a creative medium. Both artists were deeply engaged with the materiality of their media, seeking depth and dimensionality even in the seemingly flat surfaces of paper.
In this innovative publication, prominence is given to works that are often considered peripheral or secondary: newsprint, magazines, negatives, contact sheets, cut-outs, and unfinished experiments in collage are placed on equal footing as sculptures, drawings, and photographic prints. The book takes an unusual approach to the reproduction of photographic works, capturing the materiality of the print as a singular, three- dimensional object rather than a flattened image on the page. Beautiful illustrations of the artists’ works are shown alongside pages from popular period magazines such as Lifeand Picture Post.
Through extensive illustrations and insightful essays by leading scholars, including Carol Armstrong, Sebastiano Barassi, Lynda Nead, and John Tagg, this book offers a unique view of two influential twentieth-century artists.
Bill Brandt | Henry Moore
Edited by Martina Droth and Paul Messier Published by Yale Center of British Art in association with Yale University Press: February 7, 2020 256 pages, 269 color illustrations, $65/£50 hardback