Ronald Moody

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This article is about the sculptor. For the actor, see Ron Moody.

Ronald Moody (12 August 1900 – 6 February 1984) was a Jamaican-born sculptor, specialising in wood carvings. His work features in prestigious collections including the National Portrait Gallery, London and Tate Britain, as well as the National Gallery of Jamaica.


Moody was born Ronald Clive Moody in 1900 in Kingston, Jamaica, into a well-off professional family. He attended Calabar College, Jamaica, moving to London in 1923 to study dentistry at King's College London, obtaining his degree in 1930. In London, he was inspired by the British Museum's collection of non-Western art and decided to become a sculptor. Early experiments with clay led him to teach himself how to carve. He produced his first carved figure in oak wood. Entitled Wohin (meaning in German “where to?”, the name of a song by Schubert),[1] that sculpture was bought by Marie Seton in 1935.[2]

Among his most famous works from this period was his great female head, Midonz (1937). By the late 1930s, Moody had accumulated an impressive collection of work and had a solo show in Paris. The success of the show encouraged him to move to Paris in 1938. That year, twelve major sculptures were sent to the Harmon Foundation in the United States to be included in exhibitions at the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Dallas Museum of Art. His success in France was cut short by the onset of the Second World War. In 1940, two days before Paris fell to the Germans, Moody was forced to flee the city, abandoning his sculptures.[3] (They were retrieved after the war, along with 12 works that had been sent to the US for exhibition.)[4]

After having escaped from Paris, Moody travelled through occupied France, across the Pyrenees into Spain, and eventually arrived back in England in October 1941.[3] Moody's Paris success followed him to London, where he resumed his work after the war and had a one-man show in May 1946 at the Arcade Gallery, off Bond Street.[5] In 1946 he cast a bronze head of his eldest brother Harold Moody (1882–1947, founder of the League of Coloured Peoples).[6]

From 1950 until the early 1960s regular London exhibitions brought Ronald Moody a growing presence on the British art scene. In 1964 he created a sculpture called Savacou for the University of the West Indies.[7] He died in London in 1984.

Honours and legacy[edit]

In 1977 Moody was given the Jamaican Musgrave Gold Medal, and in 1980 the Centenary Medal by the Institute of Jamaica.

In 2000 the first substantial exhibition of his work took place at the National Gallery of Jamaica.[8] His work featured in the exhibition No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960–1990 held at the Guildhall Art Gallery, from 10 July 2015 to 24 January 2016.[9]

Moody crater on Mercury was named after him in November 2008.[10][11]

Selected works[edit]

  • Wohin, 1934
  • Johanaan (Peace), 1936[12]
  • Midonz (Goddess of Transmutation), 1937[13]
  • Tacet is a cool cool thing, 1938[14]
  • Sleeper Mask, 1943
  • Dr Harold Moody, 1946[15]
  • Savacou, 1964
  • Time Hiroshima, 1967
  • Paul Robeson, 1968[16]


  1. ^ Manheim, James, "Moody, Ronald 1900–1984", Contemporary Black Biography, 2002.
  2. ^ Indepth Arts News: "Ronald Moody 1900 – 1984: A Reputation Restored", 2002.
  3. ^ a b Ronald Moody - Artist biography, Tate website.
  4. ^ "Ronald Moody", The Concise Grove Dictionary of Art, Oxford University Press, at
  5. ^ "Black British artists who have risen to prominence post-1945", Black British History Extract 2.
  6. ^ National Portrait Gallery reference 6380.
  7. ^ Petrine Archer website.
  8. ^ "Ronald Moody", Diaspora Artists.
  9. ^ The Artists, Huntleysonline website.
  10. ^ "Moody Sculpts Mercury's Surface", MESSENGER, 14 April 2009.
  11. ^ "PIA12044: Moody Sculpts Mercury's Surface", Photojournal, NASA.
  12. ^ "Johanaan", The African & Asian Visual Artists Archive.
  13. ^ "Midonz", The African & Asian Visual Artists Archive.
  14. ^ The African & Asian Visual Artists Archive.
  15. ^ The African & Asian Visual Artists Archive.
  16. ^ "Paul Robeson", The African & Asian Visual Artists Archive.

External links[edit]