Henry Moore considered Auguste Rodin's The Burghers of Calais the finest public sculpture in London, so it is not hard to imagine how he would feel about it turning up next to a beautiful willow tree at the bottom of what was his garden.
"He would have been thrilled, I'm sure," said Anita Feldman, curator of a new show comparing the work of two titans of modern sculpture in the gallery and gardens of Moore's home for more than 40 years until his death in 1986.
A cast of The Burghers of Calais has stood in the gardens next to the Houses of Parliament for nearly a century. On Monday it took pride of place in the gardens at Perry Green in Hertfordshire, now home to the Henry Moore Foundation.
"It is a very exciting day for us," said Feldman as she watched a crew winch the sculpture into place. "This is a unique project, there has never been an exhibition looking at these two artists together in dialogue."
Getting permission to borrow The Burghers of Calais involved many discussions and negotiations with the Royal Parks, the Houses of Parliament and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Rodin considered The Burghers of Calais his "novel" telling the story from 1347, during the hundred years war, when England's Edward III offered to spare Calais if six of its leaders surrendered. This subjugation of the French by the English has been a favourite in Westminster since it was unveiled by the government's Office of Works in 1915.
Although the two artists were from different generations – Moore was serving in the first world war trenches when Rodin died – and they would seem very different stylistically, the exhibition is able to show many parallels. Not least, said Feldman, both men's interest in "the tension beneath the surface, that pressure from within".
The show has a number of firsts. It is the first time another artist has been shown alongside Moore at Perry Green, with its converted gallery and 70 acres of gardens. And it is the first time such a large group of Rodin's works has been presented in the British landscape.
Eight Rodins are shown outside, including Walking Man, Large Torso 1906, the third maquette for The Gates of Hell 1881-82 and Adam 1881, all loaned by the Musée Rodin in Paris; and Eve, which normally stands outside Pizza Hut in nearby Harlow's Water Gardens.
The show is a continuation of a collaboration between the Moore foundation and the Musée Rodin, which in 2010 held a big Moore show that included moving the artist's studio to Paris. Feldman, head of collections and exhibitions at Perry Green, said: "Part of my job is to find new ways of looking at Henry Moore and putting his work in the context of other artists is a good way of examining his work. So why not start with Rodin?"
As well as the outdoor sculptures there are maquettes and drawings and examples of the work they collected, all helping to show the likemindedness of the two artists. "I have learned a huge amount about Rodin during this project," Feldman said. "The more I investigated Rodin's work the more I found parallels with some of the things that Moore was trying to do and what would have interested him."
Moore and Rodin will open to the public over Easter and run from 29 March until 27 October.
Ecole Supérieure d'Art et de Design Marseille-Méditerranée
- On sculpture's deadpan inertia
Anna Dezeuze's research project focused on the subversive potential of sculpture’s inertness. Consulting a wide range of books, catalogues, articles and conference recordings in the library, Anna sketched a preliminary map of some key relations between sculpture, performance, dance, photography and film in contemporary practices since the 1960s. From this there emerged a variety of useful references including the tableau vivant, the myth of Pygmalion & Galatea, object-oriented philosophy and reflections on endurance in performance art.
Anna's research into 1960s practices took in work by Keith Arnatt, Bruce McLean, Gilbert & George in the United Kingdom; Vito Acconci, Eleonor Antin, Scott Burton, Barry Le Va, Dennis Oppenheim and Charles Ray in the United States; as well as Franz Erhard Walther in Germany. She also expanded her research into more contemporary practices by Mel Brimfield, Mark Leckey, Franz West and Erwin Wurm. She engaged at first hand with works by Arnatt and Brimfield in the Leeds Sculpture Collection, and spent time comparing Bruce McLean’s Half Hour Stand and Walkabout Piece, Barnes, also held in this collection, with the artist’s ‘Documentation boards’ kept in the Henry Moore Institute Archives.
Anna Dezeuze is Lecturer in Art History at the Ecole Supérieure d'Art et de Design Marseille-Méditerranée. She is the editor of The ‘Do-it-yourself’ Artwork: Participation from Fluxus to New Media (Manchester University Press, 2010) and co-editor, with Julia Kelly, of Found Sculpture and Photography from Surrealism to Contemporary Art (Ashgate, 2013). Her other publications include a study of Thomas Hirschhorn's Deleuze Monument (Afterall, 2014) and Almost Nothing: Observations on Precarious Practices in Contemporary Art (MUP, 2017).