Thursday, April 1, 2010

Student of Art History Discovers A New Story Behind Henry Moore's 'The Archer'.

Henry Moore: The Archer
extracted from the Toronto City Hall website.Please click here to view.

Story by by Jenny Lass

Art history PhD candidate Sarah Stanners has unearthed new details about the drama surrounding Henry Moore’s infamous Three Way Piece No. 2: The Archer (1964–65) sculpture at Toronto’s City Hall.

Stanners explained that Canada has had a fickle relationship with Henry Moore, whose long connection with Toronto solidified in the 1960s as part of an effort to expand their respective international reputations.

The possibility of acquiring Moore’s Archer raised controversy in 1966 due to its $120,000 price tag and avant-garde design. The City of Toronto was hesitant to use public funds to buy a piece of art considered too abstract for Torontonians and produced by a non-Canadian artist. Despite fervent backing from Toronto’s mayor, Philip Givens, the proposal to buy the sculpture with municipal tax dollars was voted down. The Archer was eventually purchased using private funds and was unveiled on October 27, 1966 in City Hall’s civic square, now known as Nathan Phillips Square.

However, what many Canadians don’t know is that The Archer was produced as a result of a great friendship and following an unexpected tragedy.

In 1958, Finish architect Viljo Revell won an international competition to design Toronto’s new City Hall and its civic square. Revell wanted to display a Henry Moore sculpture in the square, but, according to Stanners, Moore would rarely “design something specifically for a space.”

So in 1964, Revell visited Moore at his studio in England to select a piece from his working models. During his visit, Revell was drawn to a maquette of The Archer and encouraged Moore to make it a large-scale bronze sculpture. Sadly, “the day after Revell left Moore’s studio, Revell died,” said Stanners. Moore finished The Archer in honour of his late friend even though Toronto hadn’t confirmed that it would buy the piece. Moore eventually reduced The Archer’s cost by $20,000 in memory of Revell and to aid its private purchase.

Moore is being commemorated at the Revell-designed Didrichsen Art Museum in Helsinki through an exhibition called Henry Moore: The Challenge of Architecture, in which a smaller marble version of The Archer (1965) is displayed. For the exhibition’s catalogue, also called Henry Moore: The Challenge of Architecture, Stanners chronicles the saga of The Archer in an essay titled “In Friendship and Memory: The Archer and Viljo Revell in Toronto and Helsinki” (The Didrichsen Art Museum, 2008).

Toronto’s love affair with Moore continues thanks to the Art Gallery of Ontario’s promise to preserve its collection of hundreds of Moore sculptures and to acquire British artist Simon Starling’s privately donated Infestation Piece (Musselled Moore), a version of Moore’s Warrior with Shield laden with zebra mussels to symbolize the influence of foreign art in Canada.

Whether you love him or hate him, “you can’t look at the British influence of culture on Canada without looking at Henry Moore,” said Stanners, who encourages all of us to be mindful that there is more to the art we admire than what we see — “there’s a story behind it.”

extracted from A&S, University of Toronto
Please click here to view.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating! Thanks for sharing this young woman's research with us, Win!


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