“The camera,” said Orson Welles, “is much more than a recording apparatus, it is a medium via which messages reach us from another world.” It was the camera, and the political and cultural circumstances of picture-making during the Second World War, that first brought Bill Brandt and Henry Moore together. During the Blitz, these two artists—a German and an Englishman—each produced images depicting people sheltering in the London Underground. These “shelter pictures” were circulated to millions in the form of photographic reproductions on the pages of magazines. Today they rank among the most iconic works of the period.
This exhibition begins with these wartime images, setting their production within the visual culture of the war, and examines the parallel and intersecting paths of the artists through the postwar period. Key themes include war, industry, and coal mining; urban space, living conditions, and family life; landscape and the great megalithic sites of Britain; and found objects, fragments of nature, and the human body.
Bill Brandt | Henry Moore is curated by Martina Droth, Deputy Director of Research, Exhibitions and Publications, and Curator of Sculpture at the Center. The exhibition first opened at The Hepworth Wakefield (February 7–November 1, 2020; dates interrupted by closure), and it will also travel to the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Art, Norwich (November 20, 2020–February 28, 2021). The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated book edited by Droth and Paul Messier, the Pritzker Director of the Lens Media Lab at the Yale Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage.