The latest major exhibition in Leeds opened last week. The Sculpture Collections (2018) showcases the best of Leeds’ significant collections, exhibited in both Leeds Art Gallery and the Henry Moore Institute.
Ahead of the opening was a talk and tour in the Henry Moore Institute. I particularly enjoyed the work in Galleries 1 and 2, which provided a survey of British sculpture in the period 1945 – 1965. I find this an interesting period for art in Britain, the tension between the post-war optimism and hope for the future, contrasted with the horror and the aftermath of what had gone before, is evident in much of the art. Featureless or blank-looking faces nonetheless can suggest a range of emotions. In their simple forms they represent humanity.
In this period of political upheaval many artists from across Europe came to Britain, and the collection has many works from Eastern European artists whose style influenced British sculpture. Political and social themes were strong at the time. Many of the artists were members of The Artists International Association, which was established in 1933 to promote and support left-wing causes.
The echoes in today’s social and political contexts were clear: socially engaged and activist practice, treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, conflicts and war, the establishment of the Artists Union England.
Gallery 2 showed more work from the post-war period, both abstract and figurative, some of it quite light-hearted in appearance and subject. It was great to see women sculptors well-represented in the exhibition.
- Featured image: Reg Butler (1955) Model for the Unknown Political Prisoner.
- Betty Rea (1956-7) Girls in the Wind.
- William Turnbull (1949) Playground.
The Sculpture Collections (2018) [Exhibition] Leeds Art Gallery and Henry Moore Institute, 22 March – 2 September.