Theresa Thompson enthuses over the sheer range of works from two ‘giants’

The ‘Capability’ Brown parkland and lakeside vistas at Compton Verney make an impressive approach to the award-winning Warwickshire art gallery whichever season you choose to visit. Statuesque trees — Giant Sequoias, Cedars of Lebanon, Limes — lawns and a beautiful lake lead your eyes over the sphinx-guarded bridge towards the splendid symmetry of the Georgian mansion. Now, for Compton Verney’s 10th anniversary celebrations, these terrific centuries-old vistas have been enhanced by magnificent artworks from two giants of modern sculpture: Henry Moore and Auguste Rodin.

Eleven large sculptures outside and many more inside the house make Moore Rodin a stunning exhibition. With around 170 works and taking over all the exhibition spaces, it shows 60 sculptures and maquettes (scale models) mainly in bronze or plaster, plus drawings, photos and archival material.

It’s stunning not simply because of the setting — though undeniably that adds to it — but because the range of the works they have on show and their arrange-ment, sometimes juxtaposed to encourage ‘conversations’ between pieces, some-times themed, allows us to see parallels between the work of these two greats.

The exhibition has been organised by The Henry Moore Foundation in collaboration with the Musée Rodin, Paris. Outdoors, sculptures include Moore’s monumental Three Piece Sculpture: Vertebrae (1968) and a white fibreglass version of The Arch (1969) making a pleasing lakeside view, and Rodin’s Walking Man on a Column (1900), as well as Eve (1881) who stands coyly in a glade surrounded by snowdrops and aconites (Adam is inside the house).

Rodin’s magnificent bronze sculpture Monument to the Burghers of Calais (1889) looks surprisingly dwarfed standing on the grass in front of the house. Commem-orating an event from the Hundred Years War when six men offered to act as hostages while Calais was under siege, the sculpture is usually found on a high pedestal outside the Houses of Parlia-ment. It is rarely removed from there — so, quite a coup for Compton Verney — and a great opportunity for us to see it nearer ground level, which is closer to Rodin’s wishes: for the group to become ‘more familiar and draw the public into the aspect of misery and sacrifice’.

Back inside, parallels between the artists become clear, for instance, in their treatment of the figure, whether truncated or conveying movement: Moore’s are generally static, timeless, as in Upright Motive No. 9, and Rodin’s have more movement (note the muscular tension in Jean D’Aire, Monumental Nude, displayed lakeside). Exhibition themes include interlocking forms, the torso, finished/unfinished, and the figure in landscape.

Moore admired Rodin hugely. Demonstrated time and again, it stands out in his Homage á Rodin lithograph. Rodin’s superb sketch on a page of Dante’s Inferno stood out for me. The book once owned by Moore is shown next to Rodin’s plaster sculpture of The Three Shades, the souls of the damned in Dante’s epic poem. Equally unforgettable was the patinated plaster Danaid (1885), the young woman from Greek Mythology shown lying distraught as she realises the futility of her task, her hair a sinuous line merging curved back, water and rock.

“We are delighted to be hosting this awe-inspiring exhibition in celebration of our 10th anniversary,” said Dr Steven Parissien, director at Compton Verney. “This is a rare opportunity for audiences throughout the UK to see the works by two of the greatest sculptors of the 20 century together, and I cannot think of a better setting for them.”

Moore Rodin

Compton Verney, Warwickshire
Until Sunday, August 31