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Henry Spencer Moore

 (1898 - 1986)
Henry Spencer Moore was active/lived in United Kingdom, England.  Henry Moore is known for large-scale abstract figure sculpture, drawing.

Henry Spencer Moore

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Biography from Bonhams Bond Street

'From very early on I had an obsession with the mother and child theme. It has been a universal theme from the beginning of time ... I discovered when drawing I could turn every little scribble, blot or smudge into a Mother and Child ... So that I was conditioned, as it were, to see it in everything. I suppose it could be explained as a 'Mother' complex.'(Henry Moore, quoted in H. Moore and J. Hedgecoe, Henry Moore, New York, 1968, p. 61).The theme of the mother and child is one of the most characteristic and fruitful Henry Moore explored over the course of his long career. Although the weight of meaning shifts with time, it remained fundamental to the expression of his artistic goals. As Moore commented to Alan Wilkinson in 1979: 'The "Mother and Child" idea is one of my two or three obsessions, one of my inexhaustible subjects. This may have something to do with the fact that the "Madonna and Child" was so important in the art of the past and that one loves the old masters and has learned so much from them. But the subject itself is eternal and unending, with so many sculptural possibilities in it – a small form in relation to a big form, the big form protecting the small one, and so on. It is such a rich subject, both humanly and compositionally, that I will always go on using it' (Henry Moore, quoted in A. Wilkinson, ed., Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Berkeley, 2002, p. 213).Throughout, the mother and child motif refers not just to the parental relationship but to an expression of fundamental concepts of fertility and creation, of birth and life, and to Moore's exploration of the essential nature of things. Perhaps not surprisingly, these ideas crystalized in a concentration of mother and child works both around the birth of Moore's own daughter Mary in 1946 and again with the birth of her daughter in 1977 (shortly before the conception of the present bronze) and through to Moore's final works of the mid 1980s.A deeper understanding of the mother and child bronzes from this later period can be gleaned by closer examination of Moore's two-dimensional works. In both drawings (such as Nude Seated Mother and Child 1982) and etchings (such as Mother and Child III 1983), Moore depicts the child sheltered and surrounded by the dark shadow of the mother's arms, stomach and breast. The child is curled up and facing inwards, clearly recalling the foetal position and indicating the very first stage of life. This can be seen referenced in sculpture of the period, generally more abstract, such as Mother and Child: Block Seat 1983-4 and the Mother and Child: Hood 1983 in St Paul's Cathedral.In other drawings, the physical dynamic of the mother and child can be more separated. In Mother and Child Playing on the Floor 1983 and similar compositions, the mother and child are distanced, connected by extenuated limbs alone. This is as close as the child comes to existing as an independent form. Primarily this is confined to the page. In bronze, very rarely do Moore's children manage to scamper free. In just a few examples, such the four Reclining Mother and Child works of 1979, do the children begin to clamber away from their matriarch.It is the stage between these; the reliance on nurture and the release to a world beyond, which Maquette for Curved Mother and Child is concerned with. Drawings of the present work on the same sheet as Mother and Child: Block Seat indicated that these works were produced in tandem. However, Maquette for Curved Mother and Child can be considered to mark the development of the child; beginning to break the confines of its mother's form. Relative to the mother, the child is now larger, its lines now crossing those formed by her silhouette. A tender connection remains as the infant gazes up at its mother and she returns watchfully in delicately rendered features. Yet its limbs wriggle free, yearning to explore. The mother's breasts, although purposefully detailed on her otherwise stylised body, are small suggesting the child is now less reliant on her milk. She may not be able to contain the growing child for long; still for the time being at least her protective arm and shoulder form an enveloping shield. At the end of his life Moore remarked 'It is impossible to turn to a single influence in any work of art, it can only come by the development and experience of a lifetime combined with these influences. And then it is only the truly great artists who can emerge to create their own individual style. Then with the artist's own ideas and abilities one hopes that an added vitality will be embraced within the work he produced" (Op.Cit, p.78-79).From his first carving in the summer of 1922 Moore produced roughly 140 sculptures on the Mother and Child theme across his career. By nuanced and constant consideration each is deeply individual. Together they represent one of the richest veins of Moore's work and indeed now a vital component of 20th century British art as a whole. The late variations such as Maquette for Curved Mother and Child represent a summation of this entire process and their enduring popularity a testament to Moore's talent.

Biography from Denis Bloch Fine Art
Henry Spencer Moore was born on July 30, 1898, in Castleford, Yorkshire the seventh of eight children.  Despite an early desire to become a sculptor, having learned of the achievements of Michelangelo at the age of eleven, Moore began his career as a teacher in Castleford.  After military service in World War I he attended Leeds School of Art on an ex-serviceman's grant.  In 1921 he won a Royal Exhibition Scholarship to study sculpture at the Royal Academy of Art in London.

Moore became interested in the Mexican, Egyptian, and African sculpture he saw at the British Museum, which, to him, exemplified the ideal of vital force and formal vigor.  He was appointed Instructor of Sculpture at the Royal Academy in 1924, a post he held for the next seven years.  A Royal Academy traveling scholarship allowed Moore to visit Italy in 1925, where he saw the frescoes of Giotto and Masaccio and the late sculpture of Michelangelo.  Moore's first solo show of sculpture was held at the Warren Gallery, London, in 1928.

Much of Moore's early work was direct carved, rejecting the academic tradition of modeling in favor of the doctrine of 'truth to materials'—according to which the nature of the stone or wood—its shape, texture, and so on, was part of the conception of the work.  According to Moore "…a work must have a vitality of its own. I do not mean a reflection of the vitality of life, of movement, of physical action, frisking dancing figures, and so on, but that a work can have in it a pent-up energy, an intense life of its own, independent of the object it may represent. When a work has this powerful vitality we do not connect the word Beauty with it. Beauty, in the later Greek or Renaissance sense, is not the aim in my sculpture."

In the 1930s Moore was a member of Unit One, a group of advanced artists organized by Paul Nash, and was a close friend of Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, and the critic Herbert Read.  From 1932 to 1939, he taught at the Chelsea School of Art.  He was an important force in the English Surrealist* movement, although he was not entirely committed to its doctrines; Moore participated in the International Surrealist Exhibition at the New Burlington Galleries, London, in 1936.

In 1940, Moore was appointed an official war artist, and was commissioned by the War Artists Advisory Committee to execute drawings of life in underground bomb shelters.  According to Moore: "I spent the time looking at the rows of people sleeping on the platforms.  I had never seen so many reclining figures, and even the train tunnels seemed to be like the holes in my sculpture." From 1940 to 1943 the artist concentrated almost entirely on drawing.

Moore's first retrospective took place at Temple Newsam, Leeds, in 1941. In 1943 he received a commission from the Church of St. Matthew, Northampton, to carve a Madonna and Child; this sculpture was the first in an important series of family-group sculptures.  Moore was given his first major retrospective abroad by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1946. He won the International Prize for Sculpture at the Venice Biennale* of 1948.

Moore executed several important public commissions in the 1950s, among them Reclining Figure 1956-58, for the UNESCO Building in Paris.  From the late 1960s Moore worked a good deal as a print maker creating several series of etchings such as Elephant Skull and The Sheep Portfolios.  In 1963 the artist was awarded the British Order of Merit.  In 1978 an exhibition of his work organized by the Arts Council of Great Britain was held at the Serpentine in London, at which time he gave many of his sculptures to the Tate Gallery, London.

In 1977, Moore set up the Henry Moore Foundation in order to advance public appreciation of art, especially his own work, and arranged numerous worldwide exhibitions.

Moore died in Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, on August 31, 1986, and in September 2000 Moore Square was opened on the site of his Castleford birthplace.

"The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for the rest of your life. And the most important thing is, it must be something you cannot possibly do."

Select Museum Collections:
Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada
The British Museum, London
Tate Gallery, London
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Henry Moore Foundation, UK
Museum of Modern Art, NYC

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Biography from DB Fine Art
Biography photo for Henry Spencer Moore
A sculptor of large-scale, abstract figurative work with voids or pieced areas, Henry Moore was a revolutionary figure in bringing modernism to the sculpture mediums of marble and bronze in Great Britain. His home and studio were in Much Hadham, England.

Henry Moore was born, the seventh of eight children in Yorkshire in the mining town of Castleford. His father was a mining engineer who loved music and literature, and emphasized the importance of education to his children. At age eleven, Moore determined to become a sculptor, and the decision was reinforced when he became familiar with the work of Michelangelo. However, his parents opposed that decision because they perceived sculpture as being more manual labor than art expression. Their observations were likely reinforced by the fact that many of his early pieces resulted from direct carving, which took much time and which allowed natural markings on the material to be part of the sculpture.

Moore served in the army during World War I, and injured with gas, spent the rest of the war doing physical training. In 1919, after the War, he received a grant for ex-servicemen and enrolled as the first sculpture student at the Leeds School of Art. There he began a life-long association with Barbara Hepworth, who also became one of England's most famous modernist sculptors. He was also exposed to African tribal sculpture, and in 1921, enrolling at the Royal College of Art in London, gained more knowledge on primitive sculpture. He spent much time in the ethnographic collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum and British Museums. In 1924, he studied in Italy on a six-month traveling scholarship.

Returning to England, he took a teaching position at the Royal College of Art and married a Russian-Polish girl, Irina Radetsky, a student at the College who posed for Moore. They lived in Hampstead and were neighbors of Barbara Hepworth and her partner, Ben Nicholson. In the 1930s, Moore joined the faculty of the Chelsea School of Art, and became chair of the Department of Sculpture. He became increasingly active in modernist art, experimenting with Surrealism, Cubism and other progressive movements, but World War II ended much of his experimentation because he was a commissioned war artist. He did many drawings showing Londoners hiding in the London Underground, and the power of these depictions brought him much attention beyond his own country.

Because their Hampstead home had bomb damage, the Moores moved permanently to a farmhouse in Much Hadham in Hertfordshire. Although he made much money from the success of marketing his sculpture, Moore lived frugally and gave most of his money to the Henry Moore Foundation, established to support fine-art education and promotion through the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds and to preserve his sculptures. The Foundation also helped him avoid taxes, amounts that were over a million pounds a year by the end of the 1970s.

In 1946, the Moore's had a daughter, Mary, and this event combined with the recent death of his mother focused the sculptor on the subject of family, especially women. As a result, many of his sculpture subjects are family groups such as mother and child or reclining figures, usually female. In 1946, Moore also made his first trip to America, where the Museum of Modern Art held an exhibition of his work. Two years later, he won the International Sculpture Prize at the Venice Biennale*. In 1951, he declined the offer of knighthood, but in 1963, received the Order of Merit.

He gave his work simple titles such as The Arch or Oval with Points because he believed that an artist should not overly explain his or her work but should leave enough unsaid that an air of mystery would surround the piece. His working method in the 30's was to make many preparatory sketches and drawings, and in the 1940s to do most of his preliminary work with clay modeling instead of on paper. Following World War II was the period when he did most of his huge works, which were done to accommodate the many public art commissions he was receiving. At that time, he had studio assistants, including Anthony Caro and Richard Wentworth, who worked from the "maquettes" he created, some of them very small and others half scale. In his studio, he created a collection of objects that provided ideas for his organic shapes---such as pebbles, driftwood and skulls.

Increasingly he received commissions including for the UNESCO building in Paris in 1957. In 1967, to commemorate the achievement of the first sustained nuclear chain reaction by a team of scientists led 25 years earlier by Enrico Fermi, Moore did Nuclear Energy. It is twelve feet tall, and has been described as "a mushroom cloud topped by a massive human skull." However, Moore said that people should "go around it, looking out through the open spaces, and that they might have a feeling of being in a cathedral." Exhibitions mounted, and by the end of the 1970s, over 40 exhibitions a year featured his work.

Henry Moore died August 31, 1986 at age 88 in his home at Much Hadham. England honored his reputation by placing his remains in St. Paul's Cathedral. Sculpture by Henry Moore is in numerous museum collections including the Tate Gallery, London; Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC; and Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.


Biography from
Henry Moore was born on 30 July, 1898, in Castleford, Yorkshire. He was the seventh child in a family of 8 children. His father worked in a colliery in Castleford but wanted his children to avoid working down the mines, so as much as possible given the family's poverty, the children were educated at a local school.

It was in his teenage years that he developed an interest and talent in art. This helped him to get a scholarship to Castleford Secondary school. Aged 18 he was called up to the army and in 1917 was injured during a gas attack at the Battle of Cambrai. After his injury, he spent the remainder of the war behind the line training new recruits. Moore later said the war was for him not a traumatic experience - unlike that of many of his contemporaries.

After the war, he continued his education and in 1921 won a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art. Henry Moore was a talented student, but already he was experimenting with new styles and this often conflicted with his teachers who were trying to teach the classic style - of perfection in form and composition. Moore was attracted to a more spontaneous art form with imperfections evident in the sculpting. In 1924, he spent time travelling in Italy and later Paris. Here he could view the great Masters such as Michelangelo and Giovanni Pisano. But, Moore was also influenced by his studies of primitive art, and at the Louvre he was particularly influenced by the Toltec-Maya sculptural form, the Chac Mool.

On his return to London, he took up a teaching post at the Royal College of art. This part time post enabled him to work on his own art, leading to his first commissions such as the West Wind - 1928-29.

In the 1930s, Moore became an active member of the informal modern art movement, centred around the ideas and innovation of people like Pablo Picasso and Jean Arp. He also briefly flirted with the surrealist movement.

The Second World War led to more traditional commissions and Moore worked as a war artist producing memorable pictures such as images of civilians fleeing the Blitz in the London underground.

This helped Moore's reputation and after the war led to numerous awards and opportunities in America. In 1948 he was awarded the International Sculpture Prize at the Venice Biennale. Significant commissions included

A reclining figure for UNESCO building in Paris 1956
A Nuclear energy sculpture at the University of Chicago. (to commemorate 25th anniversary of nuclear reaction)
Knife Edge - Two Piece in 1962 for College Green, London around Houses of parliament.
In 1972, Henry Moore established his Henry Moore Foundation - a charitable trust to promote art education and the support of young artists. He was a man of modest means. Despite his wealth and fame he lived frugally remembering his Yorkshire roots. He even turned down a knighthood in 1951 because he didn't want to be seen as an establishment figure. Yet, during his lifetime he did become the dominant sculpture of his generation.

Biography from
Born in Castleford, Yorkshire in 1898, Henry Moore was celebrated as a sculptor, but was strongly influenced in his formative years by painters such as Giotto, Masaccio, Blake, Turner and Picasso, as well as the painter/sculptor Michaelangelo.

He attended Leeds School of Art from 1919-21.  In 1921 Moore won a Royal Exhibition Scholarship to study sculpture at the Royal College of Art, London.  He taught at the Royal College from 1924-31 and at Chelsea School of Art from 1932-39.

He was given his first one-man show in 1928 by the Warren Gallery and in the same year he gained his first public commission - to carve a relief in stone for a façade of the new Underground Building, London.

Moore was a member of the Seven and Five Society from 1931, and in 1933 he was invited to join 'Unit One'; a group of seven painters and five sculptors whose members included Edward Burra, Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Edward Wadsworth.  During the Second World War, as an Official War Artist, he made a series of drawings of people sheltering in the London Underground, as well as studies of miners at the coal-face.  In these pictures he frequently used watercolour over wax crayon employed as a resist.

In 1946, Moore was given his first overseas retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  In 1948, he won the International Sculpture Prize at the Venice Biennale. 1948 also saw him begin the bronze family group for the Barclay School of Art, Stevenage which was to be his first life-size bronze.

He had a retrospective exhibition at the Tate Gallery, London in 1951 and 1968.  In 1952 he began work on the stone screen and bronze Draped Reclining Figure, both for the Time-Life Building, London.  He was First prize winner at the Sao Paulo Biennale, Brazil in 1953. Moore was a Trustee of the National Gallery, London from 1955-74.  In 1956, he received a commission for the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.  He was given a one-man exhibition at the Forte di Belvedere in Florence in 1972; the first of numerous outdoor exhibitions held in capital cities throughout the world.

In 1977, he formed the Henry Moore Foundation at Much Hadham in Hertfordshire.  In 1978 he made a gift of 36 sculptures to the Tate Gallery, London.  In 1986 he was given major retrospectives in Hong Kong and Japan.

He was notable throughout his career for his output of graphic art (drawings, watercolours, etchings, lithographs), not necessarily closely related to the development of individual works in sculpture.  These unusually for a sculptor, often used colour and often established a complete pictorial setting for figures or for imaginary sculptural objects, in a manner recalling the work of De Chirico or Max Ernst.  (He exhibited in the International Surrealist exhibition in 1936).

In 1986 Moore died, aged 88, at Much Hadham, where he had lived since the 1940's.

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About  Henry Spencer Moore

Born:  1898 - Castleford, England
Died:   1986 - Much Hadham, England
Known for:  large-scale abstract figure sculpture, drawing