Ronald Moody: A National Treasure

Ronald Clive Moody was born on August 12th, 1900 to a prominent family in Kingston, Jamaica. His family expected him to find a “suitable” career and encouraged Moody to pursue studies in the United Kingdom. He emigrated there in 1923 to study dentistry at King’s College London. Although Moody had no particular interest in dentistry, he found it to be the lesser evil among his options, and his niece recounts that he enjoyed the idea of leaving Jamaica, which at the time did not have much of an arts scene.

While in school Moody was exposed to a variety of disciplines, most importantly philosophy, which would come to play a significant role in his art practice. The story goes that it was after seeing the Egyptian room of the British Museum that Moody decided he wanted to be a sculptor and began spending all his time outside of class experimenting with materials. He started with clay plasticine trying to make small heads or other strange shapes. He continued experimenting with the medium until he graduated from dental school in November of 1930.

Moody found pursuing his art while mounting a successful medical practice extremely challenging. He had neither the time nor the money for formal training and relied heavily on sculptor friends for guidance on how to progress. He eventually started working in wood, the medium that dominated the early part of his artistic career. His first completed piece, “Wohin”, took him many months and was extraordinary. Longtime friend and art critic Marie Seton wrote about it “Some people found it so provocative that they could not bear to sit in the same room with it.”

Moody’s first solo show opened at the Galerie Billiet Vorms on October 29th 1937 to great public acclaim. G. Charensol, the editor of Nouvelles Litteraires, gave him nothing but high praise. An exhibit at Kunstzaal van Lier in Amsterdam followed shortly thereafter,  in January 1938. It provoked great emotion from the audience and garnered positive reviews. The powerful art critic Max Osbourne wrote in De Telegraaf that Moody was “one of the greatest sculptors of today.”

After the success of his first two shows Moody relocated to Paris, but World War II dramatically intervened with his plans. When Paris fell to the Nazis, Moody spent over a year on the run trying to get back to England. He had been forced to leave his French studio without notice and had twelve pieces still overseas. He would eventually retrieve all his work except for “Midonz”.

Moody had an extremely successful art career. As he got older he experimented with other sculptural mediums such as concrete and brass. After his wife Helene’s death in the April of 1978 he said, “As my work is concerned, I have reached a stage of inner bankruptcy.” He passed on February 6, 1984 entrusting his estate to his niece Cynthia Moody.

Select Bibliography

Moody, Cynthia. ‘Ronald Moody: A Man True to his Vision’, Third Text, Volume 3, No. 8-9 (1989), pp. 5-24

 

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