Picks and Pans Review: In Irina's Garden

updated 08/18/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/18/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

photographs by David Finn

This big, heavy volume glows with the green of English summer lawns and plants. The Irina in the title is the self-effacing wife of sculptor Henry Moore, and this picture book includes, in addition to its detail-packed photographs, essays by the poet Stephen Spender and "Reminiscences" by Mrs. Moore. The Moore estate, Hoglands, at Much Hadham in Hertfordshire has extensive grounds, expanded as his success and fortune increased, and Mrs. Moore's splendid gardens have been almost as worthy of note as the great artist's works. Spender, who with his wife visited the Moores at Hoglands for some 40 years, describes the gardens in language that sounds like lines from Edith Sitwell's effervescent collection of poems, Fa├žade: "There are spotted pulmonaria next to needles of herbaceous polygonum and clouds of rue." Flowering plants are arranged against walls in groups of the right sorts of colors. Moore's giant sculptures, with plenty of open space around them, look as if they too might have been planted so that they could grow into their strange magic shapes. One of the most appealing photographs shows a colossal bronze sheltering a quartet of sheep; one rubs against it, polishing the metal with its oiled wool. In her essay Mrs. Moore modestly insists, "Anybody can have a garden like ours." Nothing could be further from the truth, but her garden's uniqueness is what makes the pictures in this beautiful book so special. (Thames and Hudson, $29.95)

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