Cubitts x Henry Moore Institute: Faces and Noses

Cubitts x Henry Moore Institute: Faces and Noses
For this edition of our conversation with Errin Hussey of the Henry Moore Institute we focus on our fascination with the human head and its legacy in sculpture of Laurence Bradshaw and Frank Dobson.

E: Lawrence Bradshaw designed the Karl Marx tomb in Highgate Cemetery which is interesting not just because it's a great sculpture but because of the political context. It led to him getting far less work and becoming slightly outcast. At one point the sculpture was actually bombed, because of what it was.

C: So what was Bradshaw’s process to create such a large bust?

E: He will have made a smaller maquette first then measured heads using callipers to scale up. His other sculptures are interesting as well. As traditions changed, many sculptors were exploring abstract ways of representing the world but sculptures of faces always remained the most profitable. With the Marx project, Bradshaw came from being praised for the beauty of his work to then falling out of grace for committing to Karl Marx and this project. It's an interesting dynamic for these sculptors, who become tied to political figures and royalty.

C: Yes, I suppose for some it might mean being tied into a certain belief system which you may not actually believe in. Did Bradshaw become famous for this kind of work as well?

E: Definitely. It gets your name out there. All different international newspapers featured the sculpture. You can see how important it was to so many people. Both positive, and of course negative such as when it was bombed.

C: Tell me, what do you think the fascination with heads is in a sculptor’s work?

E: I think it stems from their focus on memorial; on what people look like and memories of them. In history, it was also a sign of status so it was very popular to have a bust of yourself as a member of royalty. Of course, typically we’d see Greek busts that are smaller in size and could be kept in your home. In contrast, Bradshaw’s Marx tomb towers over you and everything around it.

C: So from Bradshaw to Dobson then. What makes Frank Dobson different from other sculptors?

E: Most sculptors produced maquettes then scale them up. Dobson was known for going straight into the final project. I think that may have added to the experience of being a sitter for him too, as you’d get a finished product straight away.

C: That’s pretty impressive, given faces are often one of the most difficult things to get right. Everyone looks unique so I imagine it is near impossible to make it accurate.

E: Absolutely. So how does that influence how you create glasses?

C: In the early days of spectacle making before mass production spectacles were always made bespoke. You would go in and have your measurements taken and talk to the spectacle maker about exactly what you wanted. It would take them about 4 months to make the frames for you and in today's money it would be something along the lines of £3,000 so a very big investment and special object. Obviously that changed over time, particularly when the NHS came in and sizing was completely over-simplified. We wanted to change that, and improve the industry approach to sizing given that every face is completely unique. The first thing we’ve done is to create multiple sizes for every frame we have. We’re also one of the only brands who offer a bespoke service, measuring different points on your face to make a pair of spectacles that is completely bespoke to your size.