Harold Moody by Ronald Moody

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    Harold Moody,    by Ronald Moody,    1997, based on a work of 1946,    NPG 6380,    © National Portrait Gallery, London
Harold Moody, anti-racist campaigner and a founder of the League of Coloured Peoples.
Harold Moody
by Ronald Moody
bronze head, 1997, based on a work of 1946
16 1/2 in. x 8 5/8 in. (420 mm x 220 mm) overall
NPG 6380
© National Portrait Gallery, London
On display in Room 19 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery

Harold Moody (1882–1947) was a doctor, anti-racist campaigner and civil rights activist before and during the Second World War. At that time, Black people in Britain faced great Prejudice An unreasonable dislike of or preference for, among others, a person, group or custom, especially when it is based on their race, religion or sex, for example. . They found it difficult to secure good jobs, even when they were well qualified, or somewhere safe to live. Black people were also often refused entry into public places such as hotels.

Moody repeatedly challenged and undermined the deeply embedded racism in Britain and was one of the founders of the League of Coloured A term used for ‘non-white’ people that was commonly used throughout much of the 1800s and 1900s. It was once seen as a polite term but fell out of use in the 1980s and is today considered offensive by many people.  Peoples (LCP). He drew inspiration from the Civil Rights movement in the USA, but his work was rooted in Britain and its Empire A group of countries or states that are controlled by one leader or government. .

This is a later Cast An object made by pouring hot liquid metal, or other materials, into a mould. of a sculpture by Harold’s younger brother Ronald Moody, made in 1946, shortly before Harold’s death.

Analysing the portrait

  • View larger image
    Harold Moody,    by Ronald Moody,    1997, based on a work of 1946,    NPG 6380,    © National Portrait Gallery, London
Harold Moody, by Ronald Moody, 1997, based on a work of 1946

Look carefully at the portrait. Take your time – look at it for at least a whole minute. What can you see?

    • Harold Moody’s face looks calm, peaceful and assured.
    • The portrait has been made by his younger brother, Ronald who would have known Harold's personality and features well.
    • The lines on his face and lack of hair appear to show him as an older man.
    • The sculpture is made from Bronze A dark red-brown metal made by mixing copper and tin. . Bronze is ideal for Casting The process of pouring hot liquid metal, or other materials, into a mould to create an object. because it has a low melting point, can show fine detail and doesn’t erode (so is often used for outdoor sculptures).
    • Moody would have initially modelled the head using a mouldable material such as clay.
    • A plaster Cast An object made by pouring hot liquid metal, or other materials, into a mould. of the clay head would then have been made which the melted bronze was poured into.
    • This sculpture is larger than life-size. Its form is simple but striking.
    • By choosing to show only Moody’s head, we look closely and engage with his face and expression.
    • His chin is tilted slightly upwards, perhaps giving him a sense of dignity.
    • It is difficult to know where Harold Moody is looking. Is he looking at us, the viewer? Or perhaps looking into the distance?
    • Bronze A dark red-brown metal made by mixing copper and tin. is a strong and long-lasting material. It is naturally a reddish-gold colour that can darken over time, but chemicals can also be added to create a black surface. Perhaps black bronze has been used to celebrate Harold Moody as a Black man, and his activism and achievements in fighting for the rights of Black people.
We believe that all races, creeds and colours have their part to play in evolving a new social order and system.
Harold Moody

Who was Harold Moody?

  • Harold Moody was born in Kingston, Jamaica. He migrated to England in 1904 to study medicine.
  • He was very successful in his studies, but was unable to gain work as a doctor because of Racial discrimination The practice of treating somebody or a particular group in society less fairly than others, based on the colour of their skin. .
  • He set up his own medical practice in Peckham, south-east London, in 1913 and stayed in the area for the rest of his life. 
  • In 1931, Moody became one of the founders of the League of Coloured A term used for ‘non-white’ people that was commonly used throughout much of the 1800s and 1900s. It was once seen as a polite term but fell out of use in the 1980s and is today considered offensive by many people.  Peoples (LCP). The LCP raised awareness about the problems faced by Black people living in Britain, and celebrated their successes. They challenged racial discrimination and fought for equality.
  • In 1939, Moody successfully challenged the British Army, when his son Charles (known as ‘Joe’) was told he could not become an officer. Joe has since been acknowledged as the first Black officer to serve in the British Army, during the Second World War.  
  • During the Second World War, Moody was made an advisor to the government on the welfare of people of colour living in Britain. He continued to serve as a doctor throughout the war and was a first responder during bombing raids. He treated victims when a local department store was bombed, killing 168 people.
  • In 1944, the LCP demanded that the same rights should be enjoyed by ‘all persons, male and female, whatever their colour’, and that discrimination should be illegal.
  • Moody’s work was key to influencing the Race Relations Act of 1965 – the first laws in the UK making discrimination on the grounds of colour, race, ethnicity or national origins illegal.

Who was Ronald Moody?

  • Ronald Moody was Harold Moody’s younger brother.
  • He was a pioneering Black British artist, who had his work displayed in a series of public exhibitions.
  • He migrated to England from Jamaica in 1923 to study dentistry.
  • He became interested in sculpting in the early 1930s after he saw ancient Egyptian objects at the British Museum. He taught himself to carve and used many different materials for his sculptures – including dental plaster.
  • In the 1960s Ronald Moody became associated with the Caribbean Artists Movement, a ground-breaking group whose aim was to celebrate a sense of shared Caribbean ‘nationhood’.

Questions

  1. Why might Harold Moody have chosen to stay in Britain, even though he experienced racism and discrimination?
  1. What do you think is Harold Moody’s legacy in Britain today?
  1. Why might Ronald Moody have wanted to make a bronze sculpture portrait of his brother Harold?