Christie’s Small is Beautiful online auction includes five works from the Collection of the Family of Harry A. Brooks. Brooks, a close friend of Henry Moore, had a long and distinguished career in the New York art world. Having served in the U.S. Army during the Second World War, when he was awarded the Bronze Star and Army Commendation Ribbon, Brooks embarked upon his career as an art dealer, joining E. Coe Kerr Gallery in New York, before moving to Knoedler & Co., where he worked for 21 years. In 1968, Brooks joined Wildenstein & Co. as Vice President and later President, before retiring in 1990. A graduate of Princeton University, he served on the Board of Directors at the University's Art Museum, as well as at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn, NY. Brooks passed away on 2 June 2000, aged 87. Here we profile three works from the Collection of the Family of Harry A. Brooks that are currently offered in Small is Beautiful: The Art of Sculpture.
Henry Moore, Small Helmet Head
Henry Moore, Small Helmet Head, 1950; bronze with a green and dark brown patina; 4 3/8 in. (11.2 cm.) high, excluding the base; Executed in 1950, this work is unique. Estimate $80,000-120,000. © 2015 The Henry Moore Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Find this piece and other small-scale sculptural works in Small is Beautiful: The Art of Sculpture.
One of Moore’s most potent symbols was that of the helmet head, a motif the artist developed in the late 1930s and continued to use throughout his lifetime, revisiting it again in 1950 with Small Helmet Head. Inspired by the New Ireland Malanggan figures and Dogon Mother Masks he saw as a young man and an image of two prehistoric Greek utensils he came across in the 1934 Cahiers d’art, Moore began to experiment with the relationship between internal and external forms; a dialogue he would continue to explore throughout his lifetime. First depicted in a sketchbook page of 1939 entitled Two Heads: Drawing for Metal Sculpture - where two entrapped metal heads are seen floating in a gloomy half-light- Moore soon began to develop this idea, abstracting shapes and manipulating the elasticity of form to create new and original works. The organic curved, hollowed form of Small Helmet Head reveals the hidden interior figure, seen poking out from underneath the hood-like shape, its half-seen outline encouraging an air of intrigue, willing closer inspection. The green earthy patina tone brings harmony to the work, marrying the seemingly two separate internal and external entities.
Although abstract in form Small Helmet Head does not lose its humanistic quality, a practice Moore saw as paramount to design, citing the ‘psychological human element’ as essential in all his works. Moore believed that good sculpture was about opening one’s eyes to the outside world, not shutting it off from reality. One of Moore’s most valuable strengths was his ability to present universal symbols, such as the helmet head or the mother and child, which could be understood internationally but in turn would resonate on a personal level. The helmet is one of the most effective and powerful of Moore’s motifs. Introduced into the artist’s repertoire shortly after the First World War, the aesthetic of the helmet would have been a potent sign, capturing the individual and the hazards imposed on them by war.
Using the symbol of the helmet, Moore also explored the threat people felt by the developments in technology and machinery, in an age where weaponry was at the forefront of technological development. Capturing the notions of external danger, entrapment and hostility, whilst also exploring the ideas of defense, protection and security these advances offered, Moore offers a valuable insight into the political and social attitudes of the day. German critics viewing Helmet Head No. 1, at Moore’s 1950 exhibition in Hamburg, saw the artist’s work as a commentary against the new mechanical world, with paper Die Welt writing that his work represented “all of us in our Western impotence against mass and the machine.”
The 1950s was a period of great acclamation for the artist, which saw his growing recognition both at home and abroad, from the success of his one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1946 and his award of the international sculpture prize at the Venice Biennale in 1948. During this time Moore held two retrospective exhibitions, first at the Tate Gallery in 1951 and later at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1961. He also received a series of important commissions, such as a large reclining figure for the Festival of Britain in 1951 by The Arts Council, a vast carving for the UNESCO building in 1958 and the bronze relief Time-life for the adornment of a roof terrace on Bond Street.
Henry Moore, Two Piece Reclining Figure: Maquette No. 1
Henry Moore (1898-1986); Two Piece Reclining Figure: Maquette No. 1; bronze with a brown patina; 9 ½ in. (24.2 cm.) long; Conceived in 1960 and executed in an edition of twelve. Estimate $18,000-25,000. © 2015 The Henry Moore Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Find this piece and other small-scale sculptural works in Small is Beautiful: The Art of Sculpture.
Conceived in 1960, Two Piece Reclining Figure: Maquette No. 1 is an example of one of the most prominent themes in Henry Moore’s career: the reclining figure. Moore had an “absolute obsession” with the reclining figure, using it as a site of endless experimentation and innovation. Moore explained, “The vital thing for an artist is to have a subject that allows [him] to try out all kinds of formal ideas – things that he doesn’t yet know about for certain but wants to experiment with, as Cézanne did in his Bathers series…The subject-matter is given. It’s settled for you, and you know it and like it, so that within it, within the subject that you’ve done a dozen times before, you are free to invent a completely new form-idea.”
For Moore, the enduring appeal of the reclining figure lay in the endless formal and spatial possibilities. This symbiotic relationship between form and space was one of Moore’s central and most enduring sculptural innovations, offering infinite views through and around the sculpture. Moore stressed the importance of such relationship, stating, “You can’t understand space without being able to understand form and to understand form you must be able to understand space.”
From the 1960s, Moore became fascinated with the possibilities of separating the elements of a reclining figure. Moore relished in such a technique, realizing that he could unify his figure with the landscape to a greater effect. Two Piece Reclining Figure: Maquette No. 1 is one of the finest examples of this practice with the abstracted figure morphing into the landscape, her forms emulating the rolling hills of his native Hertfordshire. Moore historian Alan Wilkinson reiterates, “One of Moore’s greatest contributions to the language of twentieth century sculpture has been the use of the human figure as the metaphor for landscape.”
Ewald Mataré, Mathematik-Kuh I
Ewald Mataré (1887-1965); Mathematik-Kuh I; bronze with a dark brown patina; 4 5/8 in. (11.8 cm.) long; Conceived in 1946 and executed in an edition of twelve. Estimate $10,000-15,000. © 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Germany. Find this piece and other small-scale sculptural works in Small is Beautiful: The Art of Sculpture.
Born in 1887 in Aachen, Ewald Mataré began his artistic training studying under the painter Eugen Klinkenberg before enrolling in the Kunstakademie in Berlin in 1907. Mataré became the master pupil of Arthur Kampf in 1912 and later artist Lovis Corinth in 1914. It was not until after the First World War in 1920 that Mataré, now in his thirties, turned towards graphic art and sculpture.
Subsequently, Mataré was celebrated for his sculptures of animals and his clarity and objectivity of form, which stood against the subjective expressionistic tendencies of the day. Mataré developed his own expression of form somewhere between the realms of sculpture and applied arts, although one can see correlations with the work of Hans Arp and in particular Constantin Brancusi's in his organic abstractions.
In 1932, Mataré was appointed to teach at the Staatliche Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf but was denounced as a “degenerate” and soon expelled as a result of Nazi propaganda. The artist’s works in public collections were also destroyed. It was not until after the war when Mataré’s career was restored and the artist was commissioned to design the doors of the Cologne Cathedral, the window in the west tower of the Aachen Münster and the doors of the Church of Peace in Hiroshima. In 1946, Mataré was reappointed to his teaching post, where he had a strong influence on artists such as Joseph Beuys, who was one of his most famous pupils. Mataré was awarded the “Großer Kunstpreis” of the state of North-Rhine-Westphalia in 1953 and the “Großes Verdienstkreuz” of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1958. After a number of solo exhibitions, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam organized a large retrospective exhibition and the Kunstverein in Cologne commemorated the artist in a large exhibition a year after his death in 1965.
In Mathematik-Kuh I, Mataré applies the profound spirituality of his religious works to the pleasing simplicity of his animal forms, in which he explores shape and line- as can be seen to wonderful effect.
These works from the Collection of the Family of Harry A. Brooks are currently offered in Small is Beautiful: The Art of Sculpture, which is open for bidding until October 20.
A.G. Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Los Angeles, 2002.
A.G. Wilkinson, Henry Moore’s Reclining Women, National Gallery of Canada Annual Bulletin, Vol. 1, 1977-1978.