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Moore, Henry (1898 – 1986)

‘I don’t know that my own work conforms completely with the general idea of surrealism’

A fine, early two-page (one page, both sides) autograph letter signed by Henry Moore. Dated 7th March 1940, the sculptor writes to a Miss Ramsden in relation to an invitation to lecture at Morley College on the subject of surrealism:

‘I am doubtful though whether I should be the best person to undertake the lecture. To begin with I am not used to lecturing. In almost all cases when I’ve been asked to lecture, I’ve been shy of doing it, and have refused, for I have no ambitions that way. But also I doubt whether I am qualified to speak with full knowledge on surrealism. It’s going to be a task for anyone to treat the very wide field of surrealism in one lecture, when it claims among many others such artists as Chirico, Arp, Ernst, Dali, Miro, Duchamp, Tanguy, Picasso. I have exhibited with surrealists in France and have been a member of the English Surrealist group — and of all contemporary movements my greatest sympathy is, in fact, with surrealism, mainly because from what I know if its theory and aims it gives most freedom to the individual artist and is enlarging, more than any other movement, the field of experience of both artist and the public. And it has no taboos and negative restrictions. But I have not read much of the writings of the surrealist theorists and I could not speak with full knowledge of the whole movement. And also the work of some of the painters most typical of surrealism in the public mind I do not really like and it may be that my idea of surrealism is not the “official” one. I don’t know that my own work conforms completely with the general idea of surrealism, only in the way that I don’t limit it to formal design and don’t consciously cut out associational and representational ideas. But then my idea of surrealism would not exclude say Mondrian’s work, because what to me makes his work important and makes him the best of the abstract and constructionist painters is that he works from an inner tension and not only to satisfy good taste of a logical theory, and his work has a kick and intensity and power which can’t be explained and worked out cerebrally.’

Moore continues, ‘So perhaps you’ll understand that I don’t feel keen at any time on lecturing. And that I couldn’t speak with proper knowledge about painting and sculpture from any point of view except my own…. I am very glad you saw my recent show at the Leicester Galleries, and I’m very pleased with what you say about it, and that you like in particular the string figures and some of the drawing, and that you picked out the “internal” sculpture.’

Letter folds, otherwise in fine condition. An unusually detailed letter written during an important period in the artist’s output.