Did you know that we have a large number of textiles in our collection at the Henry Moore Archive?
In total this part of our collection comprises over 150 individual textile items including: scarves, bags, t-shirts, hats, pillowcases, tea-towels, academic gowns, and clothing from two major fashion brands.
The Archive collection is distinct from the textiles Moore designed himself, examples of which now form part of the Foundation’s art collection. You can see the full range of Moore’s textile work in the collections area of our site.
Moore’s first forays into textile design began in the 1940s, when Czech émigré Zika Ascher set up a small textile business in London. Ascher commissioned a number of leading artists to design a range of headscarves, now known as the Ascher Squares. The project aspired to make art accessible to a recovering post-war population and, with forty-five contributors, to re-establish a pan-European community of artists.
Moore enjoyed the challenge of such design work and between 1944 and 1946 filled four sketchbooks with highly inventive drawings and ideas for textiles.
As well as for fashion, Moore designed fabrics that could be used in the house – he and his wife Irina, like many others at the time, were re-establishing themselves in the aftermath of the war. Irina made curtains for their new home Hoglands using both Horses Head and Boomerang fabric and Heads. Like many of Moore’s designs these employ an unusual combination of familiar motifs in vivid colourways.
Further soft furnishings were made in 1954 from two designs Moore produced with David Whitehead: Zigzag and Triangles and Lines. These vibrant fabrics were suitable for a variety of uses and became an instant commercial success.
Many of the textile items we now hold in the archive collection were directly inspired by Moore’s original ideas, themes and designs.
What do we have in the Archive?
From 1981 to the present we have examples of merchandise from Henry Moore exhibitions around the world.
A lot of the earlier exhibition merchandise is quite plain, often just using Moore’s signature to emblazon a t-shirt or a hat. More recent examples of merchandise design have used works of art, or details from them, to decorate bags, scarves and other items.
We are also very lucky to have reproductions of some of the Henry Moore/Ascher Squares that were produced by Tate for their Henry Moore exhibition in 2010.
Moore’s awards and honours
In 2018, thanks to the Henry Moore Family, the archive were presented with an opportunity to house a collection of awards and honours Moore had received during his career.
Among the many medals and certificates were a significant number of textile items. The vast majority of these being academic gowns and memorabilia from the numerous honorary degrees bestowed on the artist.
The archive team immediately set to work investigating the best way to conserve these items – which were complex due to the various fabrics often incorporated into a single garment.
The British fashion brand Paul Smith used Henry Moore’s work as the inspiration for their Autumn/Winter clothing line in 2011. Paul Smith commented on the opportunity:
“This is the first time a contemporary designer has been granted permission to make use of his prints and drawings on clothing. I was most privileged to visit the Henry Moore archive to select the drawings I wanted to use.”
Smith chose the following three works by Moore to form the basis of his collection designs:
Red and Blue Standing Figures 1950, CGM 36, lithograph in two colours
Standing Leaf Figures 1950, CGM 34, etching in black
Textile Design 1943, HMF 2155, wax crayon, coloured crayon, watercolour wash
From one giant of British fashion to the next, the Henry Moore Archive’s next major collaboration with a fashion house came with Burberry’s February line in 2017.
The Henry Moore artworks that inspired the Burberry collection were:
Textile Design: Framed Heads 1943, HMF 2127 pencil, wax crayon, coloured crayon, watercolour
Textile Design: Reclining Figures 1937, HMF 1310, pencil, wax crayon, watercolour, pen and ink
Pallas Heads 1973, CGM 289 lithograph in seven colours
So with such a large, and varied, collection of textile items how do we best care for them?
The first step that should be taken to treat textiles before they are put into any collection space is freezing. By freezing fabric items we are able to eliminate any risk of pest contamination in our archive stores.
In order to correctly freeze items they must first be wrapped and padded with acid free tissue paper to fill in air pockets and to support the items whilst in the freezer, then they are fully sealed in polyethylene, removing excess air in the packaging to prevent unwanted condensation.
It is also important to ensure that any metal elements on the items (such as buttons, fixings or zips) are separately wrapped in acid free tissue paper to ensure extra protection from any condensation. The items are then sent off to local facility to receive freeze treatment. This treatment involves the textiles being frozen for a minimum of one week at -32 degrees Celsius.
In the summer of 2019 the Henry Moore Archive reached out to the Norfolk Museum Services to ask their expert advice for the care and conservation of textiles. Although we had already received advice about freezing, we needed further guidance on the correct storage materials and packing techniques.
Deborah Phipps, Textile Conservator at Norfolk Museum Services, very kindly offered to run a shadowing day for Sophie Orpen, Research Coordinator at the Henry Moore Archive, to view their collections and learn first-hand how they care for them.
It was a fantastic opportunity to see the collection that Deborah looks after at Shirehall and the Castle Museum in Norwich. The textile-based materials were vast and each had their own complex needs, and therefore also needed individual storage considerations. Sophie was able to learn a lot about how to make the most of storage spaces by seeing the creative ways in which the team in Norfolk had done so.
We were also very lucky that Deborah was also able to visit the Henry Moore Archive, to be able to assess what needed to be done for our collection and help us with our trickiest items. One of the things that we were most concerned about was being able to correctly pack textile items into archive boxes, ensuring that they would be correctly folded and supported.
Deborah was incredibly helpful with this process, demonstrating correct folding technique and teaching us how to make supports for the garments out of acid free tissue paper. The tissue paper is essential in ensuring that every fold and pleat in the garment is fully supported, as well as any structural area in a garment, i.e. collars, shoulders and sleeves of a jacket.
The two techniques we used to make these structural supports out of tissue were called puffs and sausages, the puff giving a rounder and wider area of support, while the sausage providing support for a longer and thinner area of a fabric item.
We were able to tackle our most difficult item (a large academic gown from Moore’s honorary degree from Columbia University in 1974) together, which was fantastic practice when ensuring that all of the pleats (of which there were many!) were fully supported by puffs and sausages.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, we were working remotely. Thankfully, in our last week in the office we were able to securely pack up all of the textile items that had not yet been treated prior to freezing.
Now that we’re back on-site, we will be prioritising the transfer of these into Archive stores and we look forward to putting our knowledge of textile care into practice.
Henry Moore Archive
The world’s leading resource on the life and work of Henry Moore, containing publications, correspondence, photographs and exhibition material.
Open by appointment, Mondays to Fridays, 10:00–16:30
Henry Moore Studios & Gardens
Experience Henry Moore’s iconic work in the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside with a visit to the artist’s former home, studios and sculpture gardens.
T: 01279 843 333