Joan Moore

Flamingos, undated

Enamelled steel

Flamingos (undated) is an enamelled steel sculpture by Joan Moore (1909–1996). Moore studied in London during the 1930s, where she produced an extensive portfolio of life drawings, but her efforts to build a sustained practice were interrupted by World War II. In the 1950s she abandoned representations of the human figure and committed to developing her interest in animal forms. She also found a way to amalgamate a range of skills she’d learned in various situations in her life, resulting in an aesthetically distinct body of work.

Moore’s parents had been concerned that her dyslexia would prevent her from succeeding academically, so had sent her to a finishing school where she was taught tailoring. During the war she worked in a factory producing piping for aeroplanes, and in the following years she learned to enamel while working alongside a jeweller at the Camden Institute. In the 1960s she set up a studio that allowed her to pursue the kind of sculptural work she was interested in, Flamingos being a good example. Her small-scale cut steel sculptures were based on drawings she did at London Zoo, and were made using templates reminiscent of paper toiles more commonly used by dressmakers.

Moore’s work has never received significant institutional attention, and there is little information about her in the public realm. I can only speculate about the reasons for this, but I suspect that she objected to the paternalistic attitude of the art establishment to which she was connected, resulting in a defiant, self-imposed withdrawal from it. As a result, her sculptures sit resolutely outside the traditional canons of art history but have been produced from a clear knowledge and understanding of them: they have none of the cool detachment of late-modernist art but are too perspicaciously structured and self-aware to be ‘outsider’.

Exhibited in:

Loaned by:


The Tetley, Leeds (24 Sept 2019 → 19 Jan 2020)

Leeds Art Gallery

The Headrow, Leeds