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Creating Henry Moore: The Story of the First Lund Humphries Artist Monograph - by Lucy Myers

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To mark the anniversary of the birth of Henry Moore on July 30th 1898, Lund Humphries Managing Director Lucy Myers reflects on the fascinating story surrounding a publication which both 'created Henry Moore' and launched Lund Humphries' programme of contemporary artist monographs ...

 

Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings,
with an introduction by Herbert Read,
Lund Humphries, 1944

In late 1944, while Britain was still at war and paper rationing was in force, Lund Humphries published a large-format, luxuriously produced, beautifully designed monograph on Henry Moore’s sculpture and drawings. In a review a few months later in the Burlington Magazine, Nikolaus Pevsner described it as ‘more ambitious and more complete than any brought out in England for a very long time on the work of one individual sculptor’ and ‘a great achievement of British publishing after five years of shortages and controls’.[1]  Patrick Heron in an interview many years later described it as the book which ‘created Henry Moore’.[2]

Lund Humphries had been founded nearly 50 years earlier, in 1895, as a jobbing printer in Bradford and still used the quaint epithet ‘the Country Press’ to describe themselves. This was not the first art book published by the company, or the first book on Moore, but it was by far the most ambitious book both for Lund Humphries and on Moore’s work, and as well as creating Moore’s reputation it was to establish Lund Humphries as a leading publisher on British modernist art.

What is the story of this transformation from country press to modernist publisher, and how did the volume on Moore create a blueprint for what became a series of monographs on contemporary artists published by Lund Humphries in the 1940s, 1950s and beyond? There are three strands in the story leading up to that moment of publication in 1944.

 

Printing Expertise and Innovation

Percy Lund Humphries’ printer’s wagon, Bradford

The company Lund Humphries was formed in 1895 as a partnership between printer Percy Lund and his new co-director Edward Walter Humphries. The original name of the company was Percy Lund, Humphries & Co.

Percy Lund Humphries was a commercial printer, not a private press, and the focus of their printing work appears to have been commercial brochures and catalogues. But the company showed an interest in technical innovation and high-quality production from the start. Printing in the 1890s was done by letterpress, with metal type being composed laboriously by hand by a very large composing department, but in 1904 Percy Lund Humphries were amongst the earliest printers to install Monotype text-composing machines, mechanising the production of type.

They were also early adopters of lithographic printing, introducing a lithographic department in 1923, which co-existed with their letterpress machines for some time.

Percy Lund had been an amateur photographer[3] and he understood the techniques of converting photographs in continuous tone to half-tone for printing. So Lund Humphries also developed a particular reputation for their expertise in half-tone work and graphic reproduction.

And Percy Lund and Edward Humphries were canny businessmen: early on, they found a channel to promote their association with printing innovation and high-quality reproduction by acquiring in 1897 The Penrose Annual, a ‘Review of the Graphic Arts’.

Penrose had started out as a kind of glorified catalogue for printers and their suppliers, but it became a showcase for developments in the printing industry, printed by the firm from 1897 onwards and also published by Lund Humphries from 1909 until 1973, when it was sold.

By the 1930s, which some consider its heyday, The Penrose Annual had become a vehicle for showing off every innovative technique, material and idea that had emerged in the course of the previous year, with bound-in sections, tip-ins, fold-outs, different paper stocks, and different inks, artwork and processes to dissect and present. And Lund Humphries had become one of the few printing companies in the UK which had the facility, capability and interest to reproduce the work of contemporary Modernist artists. The company was also starting to engage with Modernist design, designers and typography – the second strand in the story.

 

Promoting Modernist Design

After the First World War, two new directors had been appointed at Lund Humphries: Eric Beresford Humphries, the son of one of the founders, and Eric Craven Gregory, known as Peter. From 1930 to 1939 they were joint managing directors, and in 1945 Peter Gregory became Chairman.

In 1932, Lund Humphries moved its London sales office from Amen Corner near St Paul’s (the traditional heart of the printing industry) to 12 Bedford Square, in Modernist Bloomsbury. Eric Humphries ran the Bradford works, while Peter Gregory was based in the London office.

       
12 Bedford Square & photograph of Eric Humphries

They were a dynamic duo. While Gregory cultivated relationships within the London art world, it was Eric Humphries who brought technical printing knowledge to the partnership, and an eye for modern typography. Both Humphries and Gregory realised the competitive advantages of introducing modern design and typography into a printing industry still constricted by Victorian practices, and a design department was established at Lund Humphries for the first time, based at 12 Bedford Square.

This was an important development for Lund Humphries, and also significant was Peter Gregory’s appointment of poster artist and graphic designer Edward McKnight Kauffer, his next-door-neighbour in Chelsea, as Lund Humphries’ first Design Director, a position which Kauffer retained until he left London for New York in 1940. A dark-room and a design studio were set up for Kauffer in the basement at 12 Bedford Square, with an open invitation to European graphic designers and artists to use the room and its equipment. Kauffer designed Lund Humphries’ change-of-address card in 1932 alongside other commercial design work for the printers, and also used the studio to complete much of the finished artwork for his poster designs for Shell, London Underground, Great Western Railway and others (not printed by Lund Humphries).

The exhibition room at 12 Bedford Square

On the ground-floor at 12 Bedford Square, an exhibition gallery opened in December 1933. In 1934, Lund Humphries gave Man Ray his first and only London exhibition there (the event which apparently brought Marcel Duchamp to Bloomsbury) and in 1935 Man Ray returned to work in the basement of 12 Bedford Square. An exhibition of Kauffer’s posters was held at the gallery in 1935. During the mid to late 1930s, Kauffer’s exhibitions at 12 Bedford Square also introduced British audiences to the work of German graphic designers and typographers – Hans Schleger, Rudolf Koch and Jan Tschichold. So 12 Bedford Square, set up as a sales showroom for the printers, became a destination for modern art and design.

Meanwhile, up in Bradford Eric Humphries had recognised the importance of the ‘New Typography’ which was developing on the Continent in the 1920s and 1930s and he was acquiring new, Bauhaus-influenced modern typefaces from German type foundries such as Bauer (who released Futura in 1927) to add to Lund Humphries’ English Monotype stock.

And the Penrose Annual, under the dynamic editorship of R.B. Fishenden from 1934, was also responding to the Continental revolution in typographical design. Fishenden introduced the concept of inviting a different designer to oversee each issue, and in 1938 he caused uproar by inviting Jan Tschichold to design issue no.40.

     
Title-page spread from Penrose Annual no.40, 1938, designed by Jan Tschichold

Tschichold had emerged in the late 1920s as one of the most uncompromising advocates of the new, modern, functional typography as well as one of its most skilful exponents. His work had been introduced to England through an exhibition at the Lund Humphries gallery in 1935 and was followed by various assignments for Lund Humphries, including the design of Lund Humphries’ 2-colour letterhead, in use through the 1940s. Although Tschichold was later to move away from the New Typography, Lund Humphries’ engagement with Tschichold, and with modern Continental typography in general, was to have an impact on the design of its artist monographs.
 

‘Artfully Artless’: advertisement for Lund Humphries in Penrose Annual no.40, 1938

By 1938, as the advertisement ‘Artfully Artless’ in Penrose no.40 shows, Lund Humphries was promoting itself as equally adept in printing and design, and as printers who were ‘faithful’ to the artist’s standards. (Accurate reproduction of works of art was to become a hallmark of Lund Humphries’ printing and publishing.) Kauffer had helped to professionalise the role of design at Lund Humphries, and through his exhibitions he had also helped to associate the Lund Humphries name with avant-garde art and design.

But there is a third key strand in this story, without which the Moore book of 1944 would not have happened: Peter Gregory’s personal friendships and interests as a collector and patron of modern British art. And the most important of his artistic friendships was that with Henry Moore.

 

Peter Gregory, Henry Moore and Herbert Read


Peter Gregory

Peter Gregory had met Moore in 1923, introduced to him by Bradford collector Charles Rutherston, and they formed what Moore would later describe as ‘an acquaintanceship that grew slowly into what was to be the closest friendship of my life’.[4] They shared a connection with Yorkshire and the experience of serving on the Western Front in the First World War.

Gregory was acquiring work by Moore from at least the early 1930s, and after the War he accompanied Moore to many of his overseas exhibitions. His correspondence with Moore from the 1950s on publishing matters shows him mixing the personal and the professional with great ease, and consulting with Moore about the decisions of the various committees he sat on.[5]

It may have been through Moore that Peter Gregory was introduced to art critic Herbert Read, another Yorkshireman, who first wrote about Moore’s sculpture in 1931 and was to be both a lifelong champion of Moore’s work and a key supporter of Gregory’s post-war projects.

In 1934 Gregory offered extended credit to publisher Anton Zwemmer for the first, small monograph on Moore, written by Herbert Read and printed by Lund Humphries. Although a commercial failure, it was Read’s first extended piece of critical writing on Moore, and the first collaboration between the powerful Yorkshire trio of Moore, Read and Gregory.

 

Lund Humphries’ first book on Moore


Books on Henry Moore: the Lund Humphries 1944 monograph, without its dust jacket (left), the Penguin Modern Painters volume (top right) and the Zwemmer book of 1934 (bottom right)

In 1939, Lund Humphries published its first art book: An Organic Architecture, the transcript of a series of lectures by Frank Lloyd Wright at the RIBA. And then the War came. Peter Gregory went to the Ministry of Information and Eric Humphries was enlisted to help on a secret Government research project in Bradford. Lund Humphries’ few wartime publications included a series of small-format Gallery Books (on individual works of art held in the National Gallery and not on view during the War) and a patriotic volume of Lee Miller’s photographs of London in the Blitz, Grim Glory (1941) (pictured below).

What was the immediate impetus for publishing the monograph Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings in late 1944? Paper was scarce, the galleries were closed and Moore had left London for Hertfordshire, unable to make sculpture.

One motivation may have been the success of the Penguin Modern Painters volume published in April that year. That book had focussed on Moore’s drawings and had helped hugely to popularise his wartime Shelter Drawings. A new book perhaps offered an opportunity to re-present Moore as a sculptor after the War and help to create an audience for his sculpture in the post-war period. Read’s introduction to the 1944 book certainly ends with a sense of optimism about the post-war world and a rousing call for greater public appreciation of great living artists such as Moore: he writes, ‘genius can never reach a final scope until sensibility is awake in the people’.

The Lund Humphries book was significantly more substantial and sophisticated than either of the two previous books on Moore: a large-format hardback book of 278 pages, including 14 pages of colour plates printed on a thicker stock and tipped into the book. Herbert Read’s introduction (an expanded version of his 1934 essay) was illustrated with black-and-white half-tones integrated with the text (an unusual thing in 1944). This was followed by large-format illustrations of the sculptures divided into sections by medium, with attractively designed section headings.

 


Title page from Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings

The typography combined the elegance of Eric Gill’s Perpetua (released by Monotype in the early 1930s) on the jacket and title page, with the modern-looking, sans serif German typeface Erbar (issued in the 1920s) for the chapter titles.  

It was priced at £3 3s (£3.15), extremely expensive for a book on a contemporary artist (by comparison, the Penguin book was 2/6, or 12 ½ p, and the Zwemmer book was 6/- or 30p). Despite the high price of the Lund Humphries book, by September 1947 sales had exceeded 3000 copies. It was reprinted in 1946 and again in 1949, and then completely revised in the late 1950s to be re-issued in 1957 as Volume 1 of the 6-volume catalogue of Moore’s sculptures.

 

A programme of Artist Monographs


Lund Humphries artist monographs: Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings (1944), Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Drawings (1952), The Work of Graham Sutherland (1961) and Ben Nicholson: Volume 2. Work since 1947 (1956)

The monograph on Henry Moore was followed on the Lund Humphries list by the first monographs on Paul Nash (1948), Ben Nicholson (1948 and 1956), Barbara Hepworth (1952) and Naum Gabo (1957) – all artists who had been neighbours of Herbert Read in Hampstead before the War, so it was no surprise that almost all of them had introductions by Read.

It seemed that the Moore volume had created a blueprint for a new genre: the Lund Humphries artist monograph.  They were described in advertising as ‘de-luxe’: large-format, cloth-bound books, with blocking on the cloth spine and front cover and separate dust-jackets. They used modern sans serif typefaces such as Futura, particularly for display headings and captions, and Tschichold-style asymmetric typography on their title pages. Harking back to the Penrose Annual, some of them mixed paper stocks, and their few colour illustrations were usually tipped in. There would be a short introduction (initially generally by Herbert Read) followed by a plate section and reference material at the end. The artist was often closely involved in the book’s content and layout, selecting and sequencing images and providing text. It’s a genre which is still present in our list today – updated but essentially unchanged.

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I’m going to give Patrick Heron the last word. In that interview mentioned at the beginning of this piece (a conversation between Heron and Herbert Read’s son Ben) he speaks at some length of the impact of the first Lund Humphries book on Henry Moore, and the importance of its timing:

‘When did that first Henry Moore book by Herbert [Read] come out? Three Yorkshiremen, the publisher, the artist and the critic, an amazing production really, I mean infinitely superior in every conceivable way to anything that had ever emerged from France by that time, let alone America […] so I have always thought Herbert in that book alone created Henry Moore […] that book by Lund Humphries, by your father, on first Henry and then Ben [Nicholson] went into the museum libraries of the world just as the war ended, you know, so that when later they saw the sculpture, they knew what it was all about.’[6]


This is an edited version of a talk given at the Paul Mellon Centre Workshop ‘Modern Art and Publishing between 1935 and 1955’, 3rd December 2019. Thank you to Sarah Victoria Turner for inviting me to participate.

A short history of Lund Humphries by Valerie Holman can be downloaded as a pdf here: https://www.lundhumphries.com/pages/history

 

Click on the covers to find out more about Lund Humphries' current titles on Henry Moore:

   

Our book, The Drawings of Henry Moore, is now 60% off until the end of August 2020 with code SUMMER60.

While you're here.. find all the other fantastic titles in our 60% Summer Sale HERE
You may also enjoy reading THIS.

 

Notes from the text:

[1] Nikolaus Pevsner, ‘Thoughts on Henry Moore’, in Burlington Magazine, vol. 86, no. 53, February 1945, pp. 47–49, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/henry-moore/nikolaus-pevsner-thoughts-on-henry-moore-r1173013, accessed 28 July 2020.

[2] ‘A Conversation between Patrick Heron and Benedict Read’, in Benedict Read and David Thistlewood (Eds), Herbert Read: A British Vision of World Art, Leeds City Art Galleries, The Henry Moore Foundation and Lund Humphries, 1993, p.142.

[3] See https://sites.google.com/site/leedsandbradfordstudios/home/percy-lund, accessed 28 July 2020.

[4] Henry Moore, introduction to The Gregory Collection, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 1959. Reproduced in Alan Wilkinson (Ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Lund Humphries, 2002, p.88.

[5] Correspondence between Moore and Gregory in the Henry Moore Foundation archives.

[6] ‘A Conversation between Patrick Heron and Benedict Read’, op.cit.

 

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