Listening to Art

01.10: Henry Moore, Large Two Forms

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Listening to Art, by William Denton.

Volume one, number ten: Large Two Forms by Henry Moore.

Hello, and welcome to Listening to Art. I’m William Denton.

This issue and the next are a rare opportunity to listen to the same eight metric tonne sculpture in two different places. Large Two Forms was installed in 1973 just outside the Art Gallery of Ontario on the southwest corner of Dundas and McCaul in downtown Toronto. That is where this issue was recorded, last year. This summer it was moved to a park on the south side of the gallery, and that is where the next issue was recorded.

Henry Moore was an English sculptor who lived from 1898 to 1986. His connection to Toronto began in the mid 1960s. In the late 1950s Viljo Revell, a Finnish architect, won the competition to design Toronto’s New City Hall. There is a large public square in front of the two buildings that make it up, and Revell decided a Henry Moore sculpture should go there. He met with Moore once in 1964, and they settled on The Archer.

Funding for the purchase had been arranged, but spending $120,000 on a very modern sculpture caused a great deal of controversy in Toronto, similar to the situation twenty years later in Ottawa, over the purchase of Barnett Newman’s Voice of Fire, as discussed in issue number 7. City council defeated a motion to buy the statue. The mayor, Philip Givens, did not give up. Roger Berthaud quotes Givens in The Life of Henry Moore (p. 369):

Toronto was a hick town, and I was interested in seeing that it turned the corner of becoming a great metropolis. Having a Henry Moore work was to be the dawn of a new era.

The money was raised privately, the sculpture was bought, and in 1966 it was unveiled in front of New City Hall. Givens said at that event (p. 371), “Posterity will remember tonight. The philistines have retreated in disorder.” A few weeks later, he lost his re-election bid, turfed out by those philistines.

That was The Archer, not Large Two Forms, but it was the beginning of Henry Moore’s connection with Toronto, which a few years later led to a special extension of the Art Gallery of Ontario just for Moore’s work. It is outside that extension that Large Two Forms sat for 44 years.

This is a sculpture, cast in bronze, fitting in a volume approximately 475 cm wide, 335 cm high and 475 cm deep.

Now let’s listen to Large Two Forms by Henry Moore, recorded at the intersection of Dundas and McCaul, outside the northeast corner of the Art Gallery of Ontario, in Toronto, on 30 September 2016.

That was Large Two Forms by Henry Moore. I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did.

For more information and links to things I’ve mentioned, please visit listeningtoart.org.

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Bibliography

All web sites accessed as of 01 October 2017.