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Last night I went to the library and I ran into Raymond Moore, who’s an autodidact miner from Castleford. I think he works for the Wheldale colliery or something nearby. I happen to know of the Moore family and especially young Henry from Alice Gostick, whom I sometimes, albeit lamentably unfrequently, meet at the Yorkshire Philosophical Society‘s meetings. The Society is well busy these days with the new Tempest Anderson Hall and I have lost touch with Alice a while ago, so it was a pleasure to have a chat with Mr Moore. They are all from Castleford, so it’s not often I get to hear from them.

Mr Moore told mentioned that was his son Henry‘s birthday today. Aw bless…. Well, with eight children, one doesn’t celebrate birthdays much, but I hope they’ll make his day special today. What a splendid family, Raymond is a very intelligent man, mindful of his children’s future and keen on self-education and learning. Most of his children excel academically. Alice told me that several of them managed to secure a scholarship at the secondary school where she teaches art. She’s very impressed with Henry, very enthusiastic. He began carving in wood and modelling clay, after he heard of Michelangelo’s achievements a few years back in Sunday school and decided to become a sculptor. Alice thinks he’s going to become a major artist and began to introduce him to a broader art world. 

As far as I remember, Alice spoke of the Moore family with nothing but respect and believed that they will wholeheartedly support him all the way to become a professional sculptor, but yesterday Mr Moore said something that made me think of Alice and her hopes for Henry. He let it slip that he intends to educate Henry to become a teacher. Mr Moore, not wholly without reason, thinks of art and especially sculpture, as unpromising manual labour and hopes that Henry will give up his single-minded determination to go for a scholarship in the Art College here in Leeds.

I really don’t know whom to support in this: if young Henry is really that talented as Alice thinks, it would be a terrible waste to make him educate the budding minds of Castleford Secondary till the end of his days… But as a parent, and especially as a parent of a young artist, I understand the trembling of the father’s heart for his young son. It’s a tough, hard world and talent is not all – in some cases it is perhaps the least important in pursuing an artist’s career. So happy birthday young Henry, and I wish you all the best – teacher or sculptor, may your life bring you joy and beauty.

The Henry Moore Foundation celebrated Moore’s birthday with a book- and cardmaking workshop at Perry Green yesterday: http://fb.me/22tnIfCjJ

The Tempest Anderson Hall mentioned by Lavender was opened in June 1912. It was donated to the Yorkshire Philosophical Society by Tempest Anderson, the persident of the society and a great polymath of the age. Read his biography: http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/37115

Ms Alice Gostick’s influence is often mentioned in connection with Moore’s early career, eg. http://visualarts.britishcouncil.org/collection/artist/5/18427, but to understand the scale of her importance in the Yorkshire art scene in the early nineteenth century, we should also remember another of the students in her pottery painting class, Albert Wainwright. Some of his work can be found in the Castleford Pottery Collection of the Wakefield Museum: http://bit.ly/MtTXvs

Now there’s an art teacher! – And Lavender is, of course, correct. Success is not made of talent, and talent alone. The individual is embedded in a place, age, community, his legacy, his family, even the time he was born. The no doubt exceptionally talented Henry Moore had also a lot to thank to his family and their ethos of education, the likes of Ms Gostick, and whole lot of other happen- and circumstances. Check Gladwell’s Outliers for more food for thought. Let’s just say, born in July, Henry Moore would have made an awful hockey player.