Ronald Moody working on “Johanaan,” 1963 (shown below). | © Val Wilmer. Photoby Val Wilmer


AN EXPANSIVE LOOK at the work of Ronald Moody (1900-1984) opens this weekend at The Hepworth Wakefield in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, UK. Moody is one of Britain’s most highly regarded modernist sculptors. He spent time in Paris and was a member of the Caribbean Artists Movement (CAM). Despite many artistic achievements in his lifetime, “Ronald Moody: Sculpting Life,” the first major exhibition dedicated to the artist, is arriving posthumously, 40 years after his death.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Moody moved to the UK in 1923 to study and practice dentistry. Visits to the British Museum shifted how he envisioned his life and moved him to pursue art in the early 1930s. He taught himself how to carve and sculpt.

Moody was featured in one of the first major U.S. exhibitions of African American artists. “Contemporary Negro Art” at the Baltimore Museum of Art was co-organized by Alain Locke and Charles Ross Rogers, the acting director of the museum at the time. The 1939 exhibition presented 116 works by 29 artists, including Moody, who contributed 11 wood and bronze sculptures. The Jamaican-British artist is listed in the exhibition catalog between Norman Lewis and Archibald Motley.

More than six decades later, Moody is among the European artists featured in “The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism,” the celebrated exhibition currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

In 1939, Ronald Moody was featured in “Contemporary Negro Art,” a major U.S. exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Art that was co-organized by Alain Locke.

Back in the UK, “Ronald Moody: Sculpting Life” at The Hepworth Wakefield unfolds chronologically charting transitions, developments, and creative shifts in the artist’s career and his place in art history. Early in his practice, Moody produced works primarily in wood, which was always his mainstay, and bronze. In the post-World War II period, he ventured into new materials, working also with concrete and resin casting.

More than 50 figurative sculptures and paintings by Moody are on view. His work is displayed in conversation with ancient works on loan from the British Museum that inspired the artist to turn to sculpture and works by his peers and contemporaries, including Jacob Epstein, Elizabeth Frink, Edna Manley, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth (whose work is on permanent display at the museum), and CAM artists Paul Dash, Errol Lloyd, Althea McNish, and Aubrey Williams, among others.

Key contributions of women made the exhibition possible. Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski, an artist, archivist, and Moody specialist, curated the show with Eleanor Clayton, senior curator at The Hepworth Wakefield. Pursuing her Ph.D., at Chelsea College of Arts, University of the Arts London, Sowinski conducted her doctoral research on Moody under the supervision of three professors, including artist Sonia Boyce. Sowinski immersed herself in Moody’s papers and archival materials at Tate Archive. Cynthia Moody, the artist’s niece (who died in 2013), preserved, organized, and donated the collection in 1995.

The exhibition includes an array of ephemera shown for the first time; explores the artist’s writing, poetry, and audio broadcasts; and features a commissioned installation by Kedisha Coakle, whose sculptures respond to Moody’s work. In addition, “Ronald Moody: Sculpting Life,” a new fully illustrated biography of the artist, authored by Sowinski and edited by Clayton, is being published on the occasion of the exhibition. CT


“Ronald Moody: Sculpting Life” is on view at The Hepworth Wakefield in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, UK, from June 22-Nov. 3, 2024


FIND MORE about Ronald Moody in an essay authored by Guy Brett and essay published by Tate, the London museum where the artist’s papers, sketches, letters, and other documentary materials, are in the collection of Tate

FIND MORE Last year, the Victoria & Albert Museum acquired a carved wood lamp stand made by Ronald Moody in 1953-54, one of only three the artist produced


RONALD MOODY, “Johanaan,” 1936 (elm, 1550 × 725 × 388 mm). | Tate: Purchased 1992. © The Ronald Moody Trust. Photo © Tate


RONALD MOODY, “Savacou,” 1964. | Wakefield Council Permanent Art, Collecion. © The Ronald Moody Trust. Photo by Anna Bridson


RONALD MOODY, “The Warrior,” 1974 (kauri wood). | Pallant House Gallery. Purchased with support of Art Fund, V&A Purchase Grant Fund and Private Donors (2021). © The Ronald Moody Trust, Photo by Pallant House Gallery


RONALD MOODY, “The Mother,” 1958-59 (cement, 124 x 67 x 49 cm). | Leicester Museums and Galleries. © The Ronald Moody Trust. Photo: Leicester Museums and Galleries


Ronald Moody with Concrete Family, 1963 (including “The Mother,” shown above). | © Val Wilmer. Photo by Val Wilmer


RONALD MOODY, “Harpy,” 1960. | Wakefield Council Permanent Art Collecion. © The Ronald Moody Trust. Photo by Anna Bridson


RONALD MOODY, “Man…His Universe, 1969 (glass resin, 102 x 82 x 20 cm;
plinth: 26 x 30 x 19.7 cm). | Leicester Museums and Galleries, Gift of Miss C. Moody. © The Ronald Moody Trust. Photo: Leicester Museums and Galleries


RONALD MOODY, “Seated Sarong Figure,” 1938. | Wakefield Council Permanent Art Collection. © The Ronald Moody Trust, Photo by Anna Bridson


Published to coincide with the artist’s first major exhibition, “Ronald Moody: Sculpting Life” will be available in September. Authored by Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski, the books is edited by Eleanor Clayton, with a foreword by Paul Dash, and contributions from David A. Bailey, Errol Lloyd, Cynthia Moody (the artist’s late niece), and Val Wilmer.


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