In 1953 Henry Moore was asked to create a sculpture for the new town of Harlow. Why did he choose to represent a family?
This resource provides a little contextual information, some discussion points and a practical creative activity that together can be used to:
Evaluate and analyse a creative work by the artist Henry Moore
Learn about the world's first sculpture town
Consider the role public art plays in your community
Produce creative work and explore ideas for a sculpture for your own locality
It is devised for Key Stage 3/Level 3 but may also suit Key Stage 4/Level 4.
Art and design - Students use their knowledge about the work of other artists to enrich and inform their work through analysis and evaluation - Students use a variety of processes - Students evaluate their work through discussion
Art and design - Produce creative work - Become proficient in sculpture and design techniques - Evaluate and analyse creative works - Know about great artists and understand the historical and cultural development of their art forms - Actively engage in the creative process of art, craft and designs - Develop and refine ideas and proposals - Develop an awareness of the purposes, intentions and functions of art, craft and design
Art and design - Developing students' own personal and creative responses - Developing creative thinking skills through designing and making - Investigate and respond to works of art that relate to their lives and experiences
Art and design - Provides opportunities for me to deepen my understanding of culture in Scotland and the wider world. While working through a design process in response to a design brief, I can develop and communicate imaginative design solutions (EXA 3-06a) - I can respond to the work of artists and designers by discussing my thoughts and feelings. I can give and accept constructive comment on my own and others' work (EXA 3-07a)
Photo credit: Henry Moore Archive
Henry Moore with 'Harlow Family Group' 1954–1955 (LH 364) outside the Top Studio, Perry Green
Henry Moore (1898–1986) is world-renowned for his large-scale public sculpture, many of which are situated prominently in towns and cities today. Many of Moore's sculptures are derived from the female body, apart from a period in the 1950s when he sculpted family groups.
In 1953 Moore was asked to make a public sculpture for the new town of Harlow, Essex. It was one of his first public commissions and he chose to carve a mother, father and child composition from a large block of Hadene limestone sourced from a quarry in Derbyshire.
Harlow, Sculpture Town
In 2010 Harlow was classified as the world's first 'sculpture town'. Harlow new town was created in Essex after the Second World War as a home for people moved from poor quality and bombed-out housing in London. Town planner Sir Frederick Gibberd and landscape architect Sylvia Crowe worked together to create a modern town with the latest architecture, and sculpture was part of the town from the start. There are now over 80 sculptures around the town, including works by major international sculptors such as Elisabeth Frink, Barbara Hepworth and Auguste Rodin. They are looked after by Harlow Art Trust.
Photo credit: Penny Mayes, CC BY-SA 2.0 (source: Geograph)
Harlow's Broadwalk in 1971
Henry Moore knew Harlow as he lived nearby in Perry Green. He accepted the commission with enthusiasm and suggested making a family group 'conceived on human and classical lines' for the common near St Mary-at-Latton church.
A family-themed sculpture suited Harlow well. In the 1950s the town was known as 'pram town' thanks to its high birth rate – three times the national average. The sculpture became the emblem of Harlow.
Whole class activity: watch and discuss
A group of students from Harlow found out about Henry Moore’s Harlow sculpture and made this short film.
In the film Harlow Art Trust's artistic director gives three possible reasons why Moore choose to depict a family. What are they?
Do you think one reason is more likely than the others? Or did Moore have a mixture of motivations?
Did Moore choose the right material for this sculpture? Why or why not?
Henry Moore chose to depict a family made up of a father, a mother and a young child for 1950s Harlow. Is this vision of the family still as relevant today?
After the war, new towns were meant to provide a better future for people and art was seen to be part of that improvement. Is this idea still relevant or is it outdated?
Activity: design a sculpture for a public space near you
In this practical activity, students will design a sculpture that represents an optimistic future for their locality, and go out and about to use photography to choose a location for it.
Each student needs: a sketchbook or paper, a pen or pencil, a black permanent marker, a sheet of acetate, a camera, phone or tablet.
Ask students to discuss or think about these questions:
If a family group symbolises the future of your local area, what should that family look like?
What is most important for you and the people in your local area right now? Is it family, or something else?
If a family group is no longer a relevant symbol of an optimistic future, what do you think is?
What sort of sculpture do you want to see in public spaces near your home or school?
Ask students to note down bullet-pointed themes and ideas relating to their new sculptures and sketch out quick, initial ideas of what their sculptures might look like in their sketchbooks.
Other family groups
Loved Ones Family Group 2000
Sara Johnson (b.1957)
Plas Coch Sculpture
Chetna Gadher (b.1984)
Mother and Child 1929–1930
John Knox (active 1929–1951)
Haile Selassie (1892–1975), and His Family 1987
Frances Broomfield (b.1951)
Jutai Toonoo (1959–2015)
Robot Family c.1975
Simon Axford Jones (active c.1975)
Ask students to choose one idea to develop, making a bold, clear image of their design. When they are happy that their design communicates their idea clearly, ask them to trace it onto a sheet of acetate using a black permanent marker.
Photo credit: CultureStreet
Example of a sculpture design in a location
Choosing a location
As either a field trip or homework, ask students to take their acetate sheets outside and photograph their sculpture designs in spaces where their public artwork might go. This is best done in pairs, taking turns to be artist and assistant. The assistant holds the acetate while the artists direct them on where to hold it, and chooses the distance and angle to photograph from for composition and scale.
Ask students to photograph their sculpture designs in at least three different places to find out where they are most effective.
As a class, review the photos of the group's designs in different locations. Work in teams to make decisions about where each public sculpture should be sited around your local area. Encourage students to share their views on where they think sculptures look best and why.
Students can develop their ideas further by making maquettes, using these small models to refine their ideas in three dimensions, and to consider material and texture for the final sculpture.
Ask students to put on a group show of their designs, ideas and maquettes including a collaborative map depicting the location of the classes' public artworks located throughout their local area.