by Yousuf Karsh
bromide print, 1949
39 in. x 29 1/2 in. (990 mm x 749 mm)
Given by the photographer, Yousuf Karsh, 1984
Artistback to top
- Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002), Photographer. Artist associated with 159 portraits, Sitter in 2 portraits.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 255 Read entry
Universally recognized as one of the greatest sculptors of the century, Henry Moore is above all renowned for his monumental seated and reclining figures - predominantly female - usually benevolent in character and lyrical in mood. In them he reveals a remarkable feeling for the relationship between the human form and the forms of landscape, and has said: 'I would rather have a piece of my sculpture put in a landscape, almost any landscape, than in the most beautiful of buildings'.
The photographer Karsh was born in Turkish Armenia, and emigrated to Canada in 1924. He opened his studio in Ottawa - the city which is inextricably associated with his name - in 1932, and from that time specialized in portraiture. At the request of the Canadian government he has photographed many of the most important and celebrated figures in the world. He is equally at home with royalty, politicians, writers, artists, and religious leaders, and he approaches each of his sitters in a spirit of enquiry, but also, it seems, of veneration. He photographed Moore 'on a bitterly cold and rainy morning in 1949' in the sculptor's studio at Hoglands, his home in Perry Green, Hertfordshire, at a moment of transition in Moore's career.
In the background of the portrait is the full-size plaster model for Moore's Family Group (1948-9), the first of his large works to be conceived as a bronze, in other words, not carved directly from the material. It was made for a school in the New Town of Stevenage in Hertfordshire (later casts are in the Tate Gallery, London, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York). Installed in September 1950, it caused considerable local and national controversy, Moore's old adversary Sir Alfred Munnings commenting: 'Distorted figures and knobs instead of heads get a man talked about these foolish days'. Moore's sculptures, and especially his expressive use of 'holes', were frequently the butt of anti-Modernist mockery. He said to Karsh: 'The first hole made through a piece of stone … is a revelation. A hole can have as much shape and meaning as a solid mass.' The photographer adds: 'I glanced up at the family group, here pictured, and began to understand a little better what he meant'.
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 438
Placesback to top
- Place made and portrayed: United Kingdom: England, Hertfordshire (sitter's studio, Hoglands, Perry Green, Hertfordshire)
Events of 1949back to top
Current affairsFollowing the Republic of Ireland Act in 1948, the Irish Free State becomes the Republic of Ireland and leaves the Commonwealth. The functions previously given to the King were handed to the President of Ireland.
The Second Parliament Act diminishes the power of the House of Lords, reducing their authority to delay bills from two years to one.
Art and scienceGeorge Orwell publishes his dystopian novel, 1984. The book imagines a future where totalitarian governments rule; their power based on continual war abroad, and overwhelming propaganda and surveillance at home. With 'Big Brother' keeping a constant check on the citizens' actions and thoughts, the individual loses the faculties of free will and independent thought.
InternationalThe People's Republic of China is created after the Communist Party wins the Civil War. China became a communist country under Mao Zedong.
Cold War tensions increase as Germany is split into the democratic Federal Republic of Germany in the west (a union of the post-war British, French and American sectors), and the communist German Democratic Republic, in the east.
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