Henry Moore


Henry Spencer Moore (Castleford, 30 July 1898 – Much Hadham, 31 August 1986) was an English sculptor.

Henry Moore is best known to the general public for his large abstract bronze and marble sculptures. He played an important role in introducing a new form of modernism to the United Kingdom. His figures are usually abstractions of the human body. Many of his best works fall into the category: “mother and child” or “reclining figures,” except for a brief phase in the 1950s when he devoted himself to depicting groups of people.

Moore”s work is characterized by organic and natural forms and usually gives a suggestive approach to the natural contours of the (female) body without being figurative. Moore felt a strong connection with nature and he drew much inspiration from it. In his studio he collected all kinds of objects such as bones, stones and driftwood. The forms of his later abstract sculptures are often pierced or contain hollow spaces. Moore connoisseurs compare the twists and turns in his work to the landscape and hills of his native Yorkshire. Over the course of his career, his sculptures were increasingly placed in urban settings. Moore also made numerous studies in which he combined his figures with architectural elements such as staircases, benches and walls; one example is his “Wall Relief No 1” for the Bouwcentrum in Rotterdam.

In his later life, he developed a talent for making sculptures on a large scale. This allowed him to accept more commissions which led to him becoming a wealthy artist. Despite this, he lived frugally and donated much money to education and promotion of the fine arts through the Henry Moore Foundation.

Moore was friends with John Hedgecoe who photographed him and many of his works.


Moore was born in Castleford, West Yorkshire, England, the seventh of eight children. His parents were Mary Baker and Raymond Spencer Moore, an Irish immigrant who rose from miner to manager of the Wheldale coal mine in Castleford. His father was a self-taught artist with an interest in music and literature. Determined that his sons would not work in the mines, he saw schooling, rather than home schooling, as “the way” to development. Moore attended primary and secondary school in Castleford, where he began working with clay and wood. When he was eleven, after seeing the creations of the sculptor Michelangelo, he decided that he also wanted to become a sculptor.

That same year, a teacher noticed his talent and interest in medieval sculpture and supported him with a scholarship to the secondary school in Castleford. At this school, several of Henry”s siblings had already been educated. His art teacher Alice Gostick knew all the art developments in Europe and shared her knowledge, including post-impressionism and art nouveau, with her students, thereby broadening Moore”s knowledge of the arts. Thanks in part to her encouragement, he was determined to make a career as an artist, beginning with taking an exam to obtain a scholarship to the local art school.

Despite earlier promises, his parents were strongly opposed to him becoming a sculptor, a profession they saw as physical labor with few career prospects. They preferred to see Moore follow in the footsteps of his older sister and become a teacher. After a brief stint as a student teacher, Moore became a teacher at the school in Castleford where he himself had taught.

At eighteen, Moore was called up for military service. Moore was the youngest in his regiment, “The Prince of Wales”s Own Civil Service Rifles regiment.” In 1917 he was wounded in a gas attack at the Battle of Cambrai. After recovering in hospital he sat out the rest of the war as a training instructor. In stark contrast to many of his countrymen, Moore came through the war largely unscathed.

Start as a sculptor

After the war, as a former soldier, Moore received a grant to continue his education. In 1919 he became the first student of sculpture at Leeds College of Art and Design; a sculpture studio was set up especially for him. He became friends with fellow student Barbara Hepworth. Moore had access to many works, which were owned by the rector magnificus of the university, Michael Ernest Sadler. In 1921, Moore won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London. Hepworth had preceded him a year earlier. While in London, he increased his knowledge of primitive art and sculpture by studying the ethnographic collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum.

The first images of both Moore and Hepworth still followed the prevailing, romantic style of the Victorian era with forms from nature, landscapes and figurative depictions of animals. Later Moore began to feel uncomfortable with these ideals derived from the classics. Moore”s later familiarity with primitivism and the influence of sculptors such as Constantin Brâncuși, Jacob Epstein and Frank Owen Dobson led him to sculpture with the waist direct technique, where imperfections of the material and traces left by the tool become part of the final sculpture.

Having mastered this technique, he became increasingly at odds with his academic teachers, who had little love for the modern way of working. During a class taught by his sculpture teacher Francis Derwent Wood at the Royal College, Moore was asked to make a copy in marble relief of Rosselli”s Virgin and Child. First the relief was to be modeled in model plaster, then reproduced in marble by using the puncher. Instead, he chiseled the relief directly into the marble, even leaving dots on the surface to simulate the distinctive marks of the dotting technique.

In 1922 he traveled to Paris, where he visited museums and viewed works by Paul Cézanne. Moore had a strong connection to nature and from 1922 began collecting objects from nature, such as pebbles, skulls, driftwood and stones. He himself said about this:

Naar mijn mening is alles, elke vorm, elk stukje natuurlijke vorm, dieren, mensen, kiezels, schelpen, alles wat je maar wilt, allemaal dingen die je kunnen helpen bij het maken van een beeldhouwwerk.

In 1924, after graduating, he won a six-month travel grant to Italy. He spent these months in northern Italy, studying works by Michelangelo, Giotto di Bondone, Giovanni Pisano and other old masters. During this period he again visited Paris, where he took sketching classes at the Académie Colarossi. He also admired in the Louvre a work by the Toltec-Maya , the “Chac mool”. This reclining figure would have a great influence on his subsequent work and became the primary motif in many of his sculptures.

The years in Hampstead

Back in London, he took a job for two days a week as a teacher at the Royal College for a period of seven years. This gave him the opportunity to devote time to his sculpture. The year 1928 was a turning point for Moore”s career, his exceptional talent was finally recognized and he received his first public commission from Charles Holden; the relief West Wind (1928-29), one of the directions of the wind on the facade of the London Underground headquarters at 55 Broadway in London. For this he joined the company of Eric Gill, who was in charge of the project and the artists who collaborated on it. The form of Moore”s West Wind clearly shows the influence of Michelangelo”s reclining figures on the funerary monuments in the new sacristy of St. Laurence”s Basilica in Florence.

The other reliefs, two per wind direction and day & night, were created by some of Moore”s contemporaries, namely:

In 1926 he moved into the Grove Studios and participated in a multi-artist exhibition (group show) at St George”s Gallery in London. He also made his first reclining figure in that year. In July 1929 Moore married Irina Radetsky, a painter by training, who was studying at the Royal College, where Moore was a teacher. Irina was born in Kiev in 1907; her parents were originally Ukrainian-Polish. Her father did not survive the Russian Revolution and her mother was evacuated to Paris. In Paris, her mother remarried a British army officer. A year later Irina was smuggled into Paris and here she attended school until she was sixteen years old. After this, she was sent to live with her stepfather”s family in Buckinghamshire, England.

Shortly after their marriage in 1929, the couple moved into a studio in Hampstead and joined a small avant-garde artists” colony that had settled there. Soon after, Hepworth and her partner Ben Nicholson also moved into a studio in the same neighborhood in Hampstead. Also living in this neighborhood were Naum Gabo, Roland Penrose, and the art critic Herbert Read, which led to a cross-pollination of ideas. Read would publish about it and thus helped Moore to become known to the general public. The neighborhood was also a stopover for many architects and designers from Europe. These had fled the rise of National Socialism and were on their way to the United States. Later some of them would also acquire work by Moore.

In 1932 Moore became head of the sculpture department at the Chelsea School of Art. Between 1930 and 1935 Moore was elected a member by the Seven and Five Society, a club originally composed of seven painters and five sculptors. Partly because of their frequent trips to Paris and their contacts with leading progressive artists such as Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Jean Arp, and Alberto Giacometti, the work of Moore, Hepworth, John Piper, and the other members of the Seven and Five Society became increasingly abstract. As a result, they gave themselves a new name; 7 & 5 abstract group. Moore joined Paul Nash”s modern art movement, the “Unit One Group,” in 1933. In 1934 Moore participated in the “Unit One” exhibition at the “Mayor Gallery” in London. Moore became increasingly established and in 1934 the first monograph on his work was written by Herbert Read and published by the Zwemmer Gallery in London.

Moore and Nash were on the organizing committee of the 1936 “International Surrealist Exhibition” in London. In 1937 Roland Penrose purchased the abstract stone sculpture Mother and Child and placed it in the front yard of his home in Hampstead. The work, because of its form and abstraction, was very controversial for the time and local residents and press began a two-year campaign against the artwork. During this same period, Moore changed his working methods, moving from waist direct to casting in bronze and only modeling his models in clay or plaster. In 1928 Moore participated in the International Exhibition of Abstract Art at the Stedelijk Museum of Amsterdam. Exhibitions of Moore”s work, his contribution to several group shows and international exhibitions in the 1930s helped to confirm his growing reputation as an artist.

In 1934, he and Irina made their only trip to Spain, visiting Altamira, Madrid, Toledo and Barcelona, among other places. In Spain, Moore paid particular attention to the caves of Altamira, works by El Greco in Toledo, the Museo del Prado in Madrid, and the Museo Episcopal, with its 14th-century paintings and sculptures, in Vic. Moore was deeply affected by the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War and in 1936 he signed a manifesto urging an end to non-intervention in the Spanish Civil War. He also attempted to travel to the Republic of Spain with a delegation of British artists and writers, including Auden and Spender. But their request for permission to travel was denied by the British government.

This imaginative and productive period came to an end with the outbreak of World War II. The Chelsea School of Art evacuated to Northampton and Moore resigned his teaching job. During the war, Moore was commissioned to work as a war artist. He produced powerful drawings in air raid shelters (“Shelter Drawings”) of Londoners, who took shelter in the London Underground during the German air raids. When these drawings were shown in 1940 and 1941, Moore came to the attention of the international public, who recognized their own feelings in Moore”s drawings.

Their house in Hampstead was hit by shrapnel in 1940 and Moore and Irina moved to a farmhouse (“Hoglands”) outside London in the hamlet of Perry Green near Much Hadham in Hertfordshire. This was to be Moore”s last home cum studio. Despite his later wealth, Moore never felt the need to move to a larger house. However, the house did change slightly with some modifications to the outbuildings and the studio.

In 1942 he visited the coal mine at Castleford where his father had worked, to make, among other things, Shelter Drawings, commissioned by the War Artist Advisory Committee (WAAC). Also in that year he joined the British Arts Council (the Art Panel of the Council for Encouragement of Music and the Arts, later the Arts Council of Great Britain), within which he served on its art committee from 1946 to 1951 and from 1955 to 1960. This British Arts Council was set up with the aim of promoting and preserving the fine arts in Britain, and by extension British art. The council is financially supported by the British government. In 1944 Moore completed his work Madonna and Child for St Matthew”s Church in Northampton. This was to be his first clothed figure, a more traditional and accessible work than anything he had produced up to that point.

In October 1945 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Leeds.

The later years

During and after the war, Moore”s work became better known and accepted by the public. There were still controversies, mainly due to the abstract nature of his work, but Moore gained a reputation as the unofficial voice of British sculpture. It was a significant change for an avant-garde sculptor, who was involved in both abstract art and surrealism.

After the war, Irina, after suffering several miscarriages, gave birth to daughter Mary Moore, named after Moore”s mother, who had died a few years earlier, on March 7, 1946. The loss of his mother and the birth of his child caused Moore to focus more on the theme of “Family.” He expressed this in his work with many mother and child compositions, although he also continued to create reclining figures. In the same year, he made his first visit to America on the occasion of a retrospective exhibition of his work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Kenneth Clark was a British art historian and, among other things, head of the WAAC. From this role, he had previously helped Moore get a job as a war artist. Furthermore, like Moore, he was a member of the Arts Council of Great Britain, and as a lover of Moore”s work, helped by his position as chairman of this arts council, he arranged several exhibitions and commissions for Moore. In 1948 Moore represented Britain at the Venice Biennale and won the prize for sculpture. The following year Moore had an exhibition at the Wakefield Museum, which then went to Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam (1950), Hamburg, Düsseldorf and Bern. In 1951 his work was shown at the Festival of Britain and he was invited to documenta 1 in Kassel.

Moore”s first major bronze sculpture in public space was Family Group (1950). The sculpture stands at the Barclay School, a secondary school in Stevenage. He had previously made the design for this sculpture for educator Henry Morris. The latter tried to reform education with the concept of “Village College. Morris had asked Walter Gropius to be the architect for his second “village college” in Impington near Cambridge, and he wanted Moore to design a large sculpture for the public space. The board could not fully fund Gropius” design and scaled back the project. Gropius was emigrating to the Americas at the time. Lack of funds forced Morris to cancel the commission for the sculpture. Moore had not yet progressed beyond a model of the object. Later he was able to use the design in the similar commission of the Barclay School.

In the 1950s, Moore received increasingly important and large commissions, including a 1957 commission for a reclining figure for UNESCO headquarters in Paris. With more and more public commissions, he was forced to hire assistants for his studio in Much Hadham. Two of those assistants were Anthony Caro

In 1952 Moore made four concrete screens for the Time-life building on New Bond Street in London. His first and only brick work Wall Relief no. 1 was commissioned by Moore in 1955 for the Bouwcentrum in Rotterdam, the architect for the Bouwcentrum was J.W.C. Boks. The brick relief is 8.4 meters high and 10 meters wide and was made by two the Dutch masons Cornelius Molendijk and G.W.J. Phillips with 16,000 bricks. Moore outsourced the masonry because he could not do it himself and because, according to him, Dutch masons were known for their craftsmanship. Some of the figures are animals with eyes and heads and gave the masons the opportunity to show their craftsmanship. This work contributed greatly to Moore”s thinking about the balance between sculpture and architecture (the wall as an art object) and occupies a unique place in his oeuvre.

By the late 1970s, Moore had nearly 40 exhibitions a year. The number of commissions continued to increase and he completed Knife Edge – Two Piece in 1962. This sculpture stood in front of the College Green near the Palace of Westminster in London.

As his wealth increased, Moore also began to become increasingly concerned about his estate. With the help of his daughter Mary, he founded the Henry Moore Trust in 1972 to safeguard his assets from inheritance tax. By 1977 he was paying almost one million pounds a year in income tax and to ease this tax burden, he set up the Henry Moore Foundation, as a registered charity, with Irina and Mary as directors of this foundation. The foundation was set up to promote the fine arts and to conserve Moore”s sculpture. Now the foundation operates Moore”s last home and studio, Hoglands, as an art gallery and museum.

In 1951, Moore declined the Knighthood (Knighthood) because he felt it would lead to the perception that he was an established artist. Moore received the Companion of Honour in 1955 and the Order of Merit in 1963. He was commissioner of both the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery. His proposal to dedicate a wing of the Tate Gallery to his sculptures aroused hostility among some artists. In 1975 Moore became the first president of the Turner Foundation; this foundation was set up to establish a separate museum where the entire Turner bequest could be placed together. However, there was no cooperation from the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery on this. In 1987 there finally was a gallery (Clore Gallery) where the work of Turner is exhibited.

In 1974, Moore donated more than 200 sculptures, drawings and a complete collection of sketches to the Art Gallery of Ontario. More than thirty important pieces and one other collection of sketches went to the Tate Gallery in London in 1978. Other gifts consisted of drawings for the British Museum and sketches for the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Council in London.

A few years before his death, Moore left his estate, studios, houses, archives and collection of works to the trustees of the Henry Moore Foundation. In 1980, Moore also laid the foundation stone for the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds.

Henry Moore died on August 31, 1986 at the age of 88 at his home in Much Hadam. The press, which had been hard on him in the early years, now praised him for what he had accomplished. The Daily Telegraph even wrote

Sinds de dood van Sir Winston Churchill, is Henry Moore de meest internationaal geprezen Engelsman, geëerd door elk beschaafd land in de wereld.

On December 15, 2005, a bronze sculpture worth 3 million English pounds was stolen from the courtyard of the Henry Moore Foundation. The 1969-79 work, also known as Reclining Figure LH608, is 3.6 meters long, 2 meters high and 2 meters wide, and weighs 2.1 tons. A high reward has been offered by the foundation for information that could lead to the recovery of the sculpture. It is feared, however, that the artwork was stolen to be traded (melted down) as scrap metal.

The aftermath of World War II, the Holocaust, and the age of the atomic bomb were elements that recurred in the subject matter of his works from the mid-1940s. Moore”s feeling, that England would emerge undefeated from the struggle, led him to focus more on works characterized by permanence and continuity.

Moore”s signature form is the reclining figure, influenced by the Chac-Mool he had seen in the Louvre. Moore”s explanation for the frequent use of this form was that it led him to the use of abstraction, experimenting with the elements of design (including posture of figure, limbs, head, expression, lines). The first reclining figures, such as Draped Reclining Woman, are still quite massive and compact and also still easily recognizable as human forms. Later sculptures, such as Reclining Figure, are much more slender and – partly due to the use of hollows, bulges and holes – more airy in form and deviate greatly from what the human figure really looks like; this development shows that Moore started to work more abstractly.

The early figures were pierced in a conventional way, spaces were created between or within the limbs of the body. The later, more abstract figures were often directly pierced with spaces through the figure. In doing so, Moore explored and changed the concave (hollow) and convex (convex) forms of the figure. Moore and Barbara Hepworth simultaneously used and developed these more extreme piercings in their work.

In the late 1940s, Moore produced many sculptures using molds and worked out the form directly in clay or plaster before moving on to casting using the cire perdue technique. For his larger works, he often made models to scale before beginning the final mold and casting in the bronze foundry. Often Moore would still refine the final full plaster mold and add small details to the surface before proceeding to casting.

By the late 1930s, Moore was a worldwide celebrity. He was one of the leading artists of British sculpture and in particular of British modernism. The next generation of sculptors were constantly compared to him and responded by questioning his influence, position and results. For example, for the 1952 Venice Biennale, eight young British sculptors produced their own Geometry of Fear artworks. This as a direct contrast to the ideals behind Moore”s idea of “permanence” and “continuity.

The works of the eight British sculptors referred to aggression, plunder, frustration and imprisonment, while Moore”s works referred to permanence and continuity. The art critic Herbert Read saw a direct connection and continuity between these new young sculptors and Moore. But in fact they were driven by the need to find a new beginning in art.

Moore had a major influence on several generations of sculptors with both a British and international reputation. These artists include Anthony Caro, all three of whom were Moore”s assistants.

Other artists whose work was also influenced by Moore include: Lynn Chadwick, Eduardo Paolozzi, Bernard Meadows, Reg Butler, William Turnbull, Robert Adams, Kenneth Armitage, and Geoffrey Clarke.

Some Dutch and Belgian artists whose work was influenced by Moore:

Henry Moore”s works can be seen in many museums and sculpture parks, including:

Netherlands & Belgium:



  1. Henry Moore
  2. Henry Moore
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