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HENRY MOORE: An Illustrated Biography by William Packer

HENRY MOORE: An Illustrated Biography


Pub Date: Dec. 16th, 1985
Publisher: Grove Press

At one point here, Packer comments, ""Memory is selective and during a long career is inevitably subject to a great deal of unwitting revision, simplifying and tidying up."" The reader, having been informed that the book is based ""upon Moore's own reflections and memories,"" gets the distinct impression that Packer is trying to tell him something. Since the work is to all appearances an ""authorized"" biography of the 87-year-old Yorkshireman whom many regard as the 20th-century's greatest sculptor--the dedication reads ""For Irina and Henry Moore"" and the acknowledgement cites ""the generous assistance of the Henry Moore Foundation and its Archivist""--one wonders if Packer isn't subtly putting his readers on the qui vive. Could Packer be saying, in his gentlemanly way (note that diplomatic ""unwitting""), ""There is more than appears here and the definitive biography has yet to be written""? One hopes so. In telling Packer his version of his life story, Moore has either chosen or been forced by nature to be ""well-bred,"" recalling only the major and minor successes; ignoring any serious conflicts or controversies; saluting old friends and colleagues; recording, like a sundial, ""only the shining hours."" It is possible, though one is inclined to doubt it, that Moore's life and career have been this untroubled, that recognition and a towering international reputation were this easily attained. If so, it has all been very nice for him. Unfortunately, it makes for a biography that offers readers little that explicates or expands on the very real power of Moore's works. The text is illustrated with 100 photographs, many drawn from the artist's private archive, others the work of Gemma Levine. The earlier photographs include family portraits, class pictures and theatrical shots, a touching picture of Moore looking morose and ill after being slightly gassed during WW I, wedding and honeymoon shots and photos taken during holidays abroad. Levine, in turn, follows the sculptor, his family and his assistants through their daily routines and produces a series of genre pictures that are both interesting documents and carefully composed studies. Many Moore devotees may want to obtain this ""illustrated biography"" primarily for Levine's evocative photographs.