The Promotion and Reception of British Sculpture Abroad, 1948–1960: Herbert Read, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, and the “Young British Sculptors”
Author(s)Henry Meyric Hughes
Arts in general
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AbstractIn 1945, Europe lay in ruins. Networks needed to be established, new alliances forged. UNESCO was a child of that time, and the idea of a united, democratic Europe took wing. During the period 1948–60, Modernism was at its height, and its shape was defined in a number of important exhibitions and publications. Herbert Read and others, with the support of the British Council, established an international presence for Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, and the postwar generation of “the Geometry of Fear”. In doing so, they introduced a particularly “English” flavour to the debates about European moral and spiritual reconstruction. Britain pioneered new forms of public patronage and display. In West Germany, the new British sculpture was interpreted as an expression of Western, humanist values, though it also carried intimations of the threat of nuclear war and destruction. Moore’s moderate Modernism and social democratic credentials went down well with artists in communist countries, who were seeking to escape from the narrow prescriptions of socialist realism. Over time, the British Council helped to create, and support, the notion of a self-regenerating sculptural tradition that was carried over until the full impact of globalization began to be felt, towards the end of the 1990s.