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Henry Moore on the BBC

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Roly Keating | 11:10 UK time, Monday, 15 February 2010

Henry MooreIt's early May 1951. The Festival of Britain is about to begin, and the Tate Gallery is opening a major exhibition of the UK's most famous living artist, Henry Moore.

And on TV the BBC is about to broadcast a programme now generally considered to be the UK's first ever television arts documentary. John Read's half-hour film portrait of Henry Moore pointed the way for all of us who've ever tried to capture a contemporary artist on camera - check out John Wyver's excellent blog on Read to find out just how pioneering and influential this film is.

Now, thanks to the enlightened partnership of the Henry Moore Foundation, working with Tate Britain, all of Read's six films on Moore, along with other BBC documentaries, interviews and reports made over nearly five decades, have been digitised and released online, to coincide with - what else? - a major new Henry Moore exhibition at Tate Britain. In due course this treasure-trove of material will be available for use by other galleries across the UK.

There is rare footage of Moore at work in his studio, following the process from early sketches to final creation. If you've ever seen the huge Reclining Figure that stands today outside the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, its exact moment of birth, is captured on camera.

We see Moore talking to John Freeman in the legendary interview series Face to Face. We see him looking back on the extraordinary wartime images he made of Londoners sheltering underground from the Blitz. Then comes Moore in old age, talking one last time on camera to Read and reflecting on an epic career in art.

Oh, and there's, er, Richard Bacon, helping to move a mighty Moore sculpture and introducing the artist's work to a new generation on Blue Peter in the late 1990s. All the variety of the BBC is here, in the survey of a single life.

I'm constantly amazed at the sheer range and depth of the BBC Archive. Unlocking its full riches could take a lifetime, but exciting collaborations like this, with partners who care about enriching the digital public space, show what's possible.

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