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Truth to Materials - Arcy Art Original Oil Paintings Art Dictionary

The phrase truth to materials describes the belief that each material used as a mediun should be used in specified ways determined by the material itself.

The phrase was much used in aesthetic discussions in the 1930s and is particularly associated with Henry Moore, who in Unit One (1934) wrote that ‘Each material has its own individual qualities…Stone, for example, is hard and concentrated and should not be falsified to look like soft flesh…It should keep its hard tense stoniness.’ Although in theory the idea could be applied to any material, in effect it was used by Moore as an argument for direct carving, as practised by himself and contemporaries such as Barbara Hepworth. Moore later admitted that the idea of truth to materials had become a fetish and in 1951 he conceded that it should not be made into a criterion of value, ‘otherwise a snowman made by a child would have to be praised at the expense of a Rodin or a Bernini’.


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