The Age of Innocence examines notions of the 'ideal' in female portraits and head studies by sculptors of the New Sculpture Movement, a group of late nineteenth-century artists whose emphasis on realism, emotion and sensuality signalled an important change in British sculpture.
Bringing together a selection of the most influential works of the time, this display traces the repetition of key portraits across their renderings in plaster, marble and bronze. Of varying materials, scales and colours, the replication of these sculptures raises questions about their production, as well as their domestic and commercial distribution. Focusing on the subject of the ideal female head, the exhibition puts a spotlight on a somewhat vaguely defined category of sculptural portraits concerned with portraying an 'ideal' or 'mood', as opposed to the character of a particular person.
As its starting point, the exhibition foregrounds a plaster version of 'The Age of Innocence' (c. 1897) by Alfred Drury (1856-1944), recently acquired by Leeds Museums and Galleries for its sculpture collection, along with an archive of photographs and correspondence relating to the Doncaster family and their connection with Drury, a sculptor of great importance to the city of Leeds. In 1894 Leeds Art Gallery commissioned the sculpture 'Circe', which won the gold medal at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900. Just outside Leeds rail station, in City Square, Drury's eight torch-bearers were set in place in 1903 where they stand today to greet arrivals to the city. The model for these figures was Clarrie Doncaster, whose sister, Gracie, was the sitter for 'The Age of Innocence'.
Although Gracie Doncaster was identified as the sitter for 'The Age of Innocence' early in the sculpture's history, this sculpture is not strictly a portrait image. It is an idealised version of a girl's head, which Drury explored in bronze, marble and plaster. All three versions will be shown in The Age of Innocence alongside contemporary marble and bronze female busts and head studies by Alfred Gilbert (1854-1934), Edward Onslow Ford (1852-1901), and George Frampton (1860-1928) loaned from public museum collections in England, Scotland and Wales. Each of these artists is represented in the Henry Moore Institute Archive of Sculptors' Papers and a selection of materials relating to the sculptures will be displayed for the first time, including original studio photographs of the sculptures and artists' correspondence.
The Age of Innocence: Replicating the Ideal Portrait in the New Sculpture Movement is curated by the Institute's 2011-2013 post-doctoral research fellow Dr Elizabeth McCormick with Pavel Pyś, Exhibitions and Displays Curator. The Henry Moore Institute is a centre for the study of sculpture, and all new acquisitions are the subject of research. The Leeds sculpture collections are managed by a unique partnership between the Henry Moore Institute and Leeds Museums and Galleries, a relationship that has built one of the strongest public collections of British sculpture.