We recently spent a wonderful Sunday with our boys (aged seven and four) exploring the Henry Moore Studios and Gardens in Hertfordshire. I love visiting galleries and museums and I’m keen to teach my children about art. However, sometimes small children and galleries do not mix, so I’m always on the look out for ways to enjoy art in a child-friendly environment. The Henry Moore sculpture gardens are perfect for children: there’s plenty of space to play, you can touch the open-air art works and visitors can peek into Henry Moore’s former studios to see the tools and materials he used.
The son of a miner, Henry Moore grew up in Yorkshire and showed a keen interest in art and sculpture from a young age. After serving in the First World War, Moore studied at the Leeds College of Art and later at the Royal College of Art in London. Over his lifetime, Moore produced an extensive body of public art which can now be found all over the world from Norway to New Zealand. Moore was an extremely successful artist and sank much of his wealth into the Henry Moore Foundation, a charity which continues to promote art today.
Henry Moore’s sculptures are frequently semi-abstract, often depicting the female form reclining. His artwork is a brilliant way of introducing children to the power of art and what art can express. The sculptures are very child-friendly: big, textured, often recognisable forms. Many of the sculptures feature a hole which adds a playful element for a young viewer. Some of Moore’s most famous sculptures are cast in bronze but he frequently used stone and wood.
The Henry Moore Studios and Gardens in Hertfordshire are extensive: set over some 60 acres including orchards and farmland. There are two converted barns in the grounds for indoor exhibitions. The Tithe Barn is hung with tapestries, based on Moore’s drawings, including scenes of figures sheltering in the London Underground during the Second World War air raids. The Sheep Field Barn hosts temporary exhibitions, we enjoyed the current exhibition exploring Henry Moore’s carved artworks; unlike the bronzes outside, these sculptures cannot be touched.
Visitors can take a tour of Henry Moore’s former home, Hoglands House, where he lived from 1940 until his death in 1986. We spent most of our visit outside exploring the art in the gardens and fields. The sculptures are spread out and children are given an I-spy sheet to tick off artworks and small details which they discover as they walk around the grounds.
I really enjoyed listening to what the children thought of the sculptures and hearing their exclamations when they touched the bronze artworks which had been heated by the summer sun. They truly engaged with the art and the setting and were full of questions and ideas. It is a lot easier to chat to young children about art when you’re walking through a big field rather than a silent gallery. We visited on a particularly beautiful day when the bright blue sky contrasted dramatically with the golden colours of the sculptures and the green of the landscape. It felt like a very peaceful outing despite our energetic companions.
There’s a Halloween themed half term workshop at the Henry Moore Studios and Gardens on Saturday 27th October 2018.
Visiting the Henry Moore Studios and Gardens in Hertfordshire
Opening hours: Wednesday to Sunday 11am-5pm, open from Good Friday in spring until around the end of October in autumn, closed in winter.
Cost: £14 per adult and £7 for under 18s, family tickets are £35. Alternatively, you can buy Family Membership for £70 which is valid for a year.
Transport: the nearest train station is Bishops Stortford (15 minutes by taxi), which is about 40 minutes from London Liverpool Street.
Eating: there’s a good cafe and a picnic area.
The artwork I have photographed is reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation.
Looking for other ways to engage your children with art? Read our review of a child-friendly Vivaldi’s Four Seasons brought to life by James Mayhew in a brilliant mix of art and music. He holds regular concerts in Hertfordshire and around the country. I love taking my children to these concerts.
Have you visited the Henry Moore Studios and Gardens in Hertfordshire? Let me know in the comments below.
If you’re driving in the UK, make sure you take a look at my post about family-friendly places to stop just off the motorway. It covers everything from play areas to picnic spots, castles to nature reserves.