Last Saturday was the fist real ice-and-snow day over here. Basically, this means a bit of snow, a lot of slippery icy roads and the public transport going absolutely nuts. I decided this was the perfect day for me to travel (by public transport, of course) up North to see Albert Moore: Of Beauty and Aesthetics at Museum De Buitenplaats in Eelde. I have to say that I had never heard of Eelde before (topography is not one of my strongest points) but I’m glad I know where to find it now. This exhibition was brought to by attention through an article, announcing the same show in York. It was somewhere at the end of the article I noticed that the first venue was to be De Buitenplaats, which… sounded very Dutch to me. Turns out it is.
So, who was Albert Moore? Born in York in 1841 in a family of artists, Albert Joseph Moore was trained by his father William Moore in painting and drawing from a very young age. Later, he went on studying at the Royal Academy. His paintings mainly show women in classical settings, full of draperies, intricate decorative patterns and flowery elements. Next to painting, Moore designed wallpaper, tiles and stained glass for Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co. From 1877 onwards, he was a regular exhibitor at the Grosvenor Gallery. Moore died in 1893 in poverty.
Just the second solo show of his works (the first one being an few months after his death in 1893), this exhibition presents a little over 40 works by Moore, his friends and contemporaries, and his family. The museum is quite small and most of the works are presented in one room at the ground floor. At the first floor you will find a handful of smaller works by members of the Moore family.
As stated before, Moore’s works are presented amongst works by his contemporaries, like G.F. Watts, Edward Burne-Jones and James McNeill Whistler. Most of these works are sketches but nonetheless very beautiful. They give a sense of the general style in the Aesthetic Movement during the time Moore was active. One of the highlights of these works for me was Burne-Jones’s Sleeping Maidens, because I had no idea the work would be shown and his use of highlights in his watercolour is just overwhelming.
There were several large works by Moore, combined with some other smaller ones. I know it’s not always about size, but the big canvasses are very impressing. I loved that they chose to present Sea Shells and Sea Gulls next to each other. The horizons of the two paintings are at the same level. We have the feeling we are looking at two women at the beach on a windy day. But wait… are those really two women or is it the same woman? Like Burne-Jones’s ladies, Moore’s women are also stylised into this ideal figure which makes them all look like one another.
Next to the beach ladies, we have Midsummer, which has the brightest orange tones one can imagine. Flaming June would almost be jealous (ed. no she’s not). The details are subtle but very well crafted. If we take a look at the decorative elements at the top of the silver chair or the tapestry on which it stands, we clearly see Moore’s arts and crafts influence.
The thing I loved most about this exhibition is the way it invites you to see parallels in the works. What are the elements Moore uses often? How does his style develop? This was very much visible in the pairing of some of his reclining ladies, where we see the development in composition slowly take place. Add a vase here, put a cat there, lose the cat in the end…
Another thing I noticed was Moore’s use of yellow. I like the fact that he uses a particular shade of yellow quite often to lighten things up. We see that in the flowers on top of the silver chair in Midsummer. It’s also evident in A Face in the Crowd, his portrait of model and actress Ellen Terry (who at 16 married 46-year old G.F. Watts – didn’t work out). The shades used are quite flat – but then there’s this little yellow flower in her hair which brightens up the whole portrait. In reality the yellow was a lot brighter, trust me.
I’m really glad Museum De Buitenplaats and York Art Gallery are hosting this exhibition. I hope this will help to bring more attention to Moore’s work, because he deserves it. The exhibition will run in Eelde until 19 March 2017 and it opens in York on 7 April.
Asleson, Robyn. Albert Moore, London: Phaidon, 2000.