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Family Group

Exhibition Piece: Walter Gropius asked Henry Morris to create a piece of art for the new Impington Village College in 1938. The sculpture design depicts an idealised, nuclear family, and echoes his prominent mother and child theme, portraying stability and security.

When artist Henry Moore was asked by Walter Gropius to make a sculpture for Impington Village College, Moore suggested that a family group would be a good representation of the Village College ideal.

"Gropius asked me to do a piece of sculpture for the school.  We talked about it and I suggested a family group would be the right subject.  However, it never got further than that because there was no money.  Henry Morris tried unsuccessfully to raise money by private subscription.  Gropius left England for Harvard University.  Later the war came and I heard no more about it until, about 1944, Henry Morris told me that he now thought he could get enough money together for the sculpture if I would still like to think of doing it.  I said yes, because the idea right from the start had appealed to me and I began drawing in note book form of family groups.  From these note book drawings I made a number of small maquettes, a dozen or more.  Some of the maquettes were ideas for bronze, but most of them were for stone because for the Impington school I felt stone would be more suitable." Henry Moore in a letter to Dorothy Miller, 31 January 1951, quoted in Philip James, (ed.), Henry Moore on Sculpture, London 1966

The family group would have been an attractive image after the war when a Labour government was keen to encourage women to return to traditional mothering roles.  The subject of this sculpture may also have been influenced by his wife's miscarriages and the eventual birth of Mary, their daughter.

Lack of funding meant that Moore's first large sculpture in bronze did not actually get beyond the maquette stage for Impington Village College.  In later years the Barclay School in Stevenage, supported by Hertfordshire County Council, was able to buy the piece which Moore had agreed to produce in bronze at cost price.  Moore had planned for the sculpture to be in stone for the setting at Impington Village College.  Tate Britain displays the other UK copy of this sculpture, and two more copies are in America.  A maquette of the Family Group in bronze can also be seen in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

Similarly to Graham Sutherland’s mural designs, the original sketch for the sculpture was donated to IVC and is still own by the College today.

Moore believed that "…in the human figure one could express more completely one's feelings about the world than in any other way."

Do you think a family group would be portrayed in the same way today?

Is IVC a space for the whole family?