10 Facts About Henry Moore

Black-and-white photograph of Henry Moore wearing a striped button-up shirt, with rolled-up sleeves. His hands, with fingers spread open, are positioned close to the camera lens, revealing the full frontal view of his palms.Image © Henry Moore Foundation / Henry Moore © John Hedgecoe c. 1968
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Henry Moore

Henry Moore

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Henry Moore is a renowned English sculptor and artist widely recognised for his pioneering work in modern sculpture. He is best known for his abstract silhouettes and sculptures of great mass, created from materials such as bronze and stone, which have established him as an icon in modern art. Even today, he remains an influential artist, continuing to inspire and impact contemporary art.

1.

Henry Moore volunteered for military service

Henry Moore, a British sculptor, volunteered for military service at the age of 18 in 1916, becoming the youngest participant in his regiment. He sustained severe injuries the following year during a gas attack in France, resulting in hospitalisation. He spent the remainder of his military service as a fitness coach. Following the war, he was granted a scholarship, which enabled him to study at the Leeds School of Art from 1919. It was there that he initiated his sculptural work and was introduced to modernism.

A vignette of a young man in military uniform on crinkled paper. The young man, identified as Henry Moore with combed-over hair and a stoic facial expression, is depicted within the circular crop. In the lower right-hand corner, the vignette is signed with the initials 'H.S. Moore'.Image © The Court Gallery / Signed Photograph Of The Artist 1917
2.

Henry Moore joined a surrealist group - Unit One

In 1936, the celebrated British sculptor, Henry Moore, joined Unit One, a prestigious Surrealist group established by the renowned artist Paul Nash three years prior. Alongside Nash and the esteemed British author and artist Roland Penrose, Moore organised the International Surrealist Exhibition in London that same year. Despite his involvement in the group, Moore never truly identified as a Surrealist. Regardless, he remained intrigued by the Surrealist concept of biomorphism, which involves artistic representations inspired by nature. Consequently, his works gradually became more abstract while retaining their characteristic figural form.

Black-and-white photograph of Henry Moore standing next to a large-scale sculpture. Moore, wearing a white short-sleeve shirt, is positioned beside the abstracted reclining figures sculpture. His hands rest on the raised elbow and knee of the artwork as he gazes directly at the camera.Image © Henry Moore Archive / Moore with Reclining Figure (LH 59) and Mask (LH 77) c.1929-30
3.

Henry Moore was an advocate for public art

Henry Moore was the recipient of numerous public commissions throughout his lifetime. As the 1950s progressed, Moore increasingly created sculptures intended for public view. A firm believer in the significant role public art played in society, the artist generously donated many of his works to various foundations and institutions, stipulating that they be exhibited in public spaces. By the end of the 1970s, Moore's impressive body of work was featured in over forty exhibitions annually, cementing his place as one of the most revered artists of the 20th century.

4.

Henry Moore initially trained as a teacher

Despite his remarkable artistic talent, a young Henry Moore was initially guided away from pursuing art by his father. However, destiny led him back to Castleford Grammar School, his own alma mater, where he began his teaching career. Soon after, Moore's artistic career took off, leading him to accept a seven-year teaching position at the prestigious Royal College of Art in London.

Abstract sculpture rising from a circular base in a sinuous form, featuring three hollow holes of different sizes dispersed throughout the artwork.Image © Christie's / Interior Form © Henry Moore Conceived in 1951; cast in 1981
5.

Henry Moore’s hampstead studio was bombed

In line with many of the artists who flocked to Hampstead during the inter-war years, Henry Moore eventually chose to escape the city and establish roots in the countryside due to his studio being bombed - this also meant that work on his large-scale sculptures proved impossible. As a result, he focused on sketches. His new residence of choice was Hoglands, a picturesque farmhouse located in Perry Green, just outside Much Hadham in Hertfordshire. By immersing himself in this idyllic rural setting, Moore was able to focus on his artwork in a peaceful, distraction-free environment, laying the foundation for some of his most groundbreaking and influential works.

Black-and-white photograph of Henry Moore seated on a wooden plinth, wearing trousers, a white short-sleeve shirt, and a newsboy cap. Moore is seen carving at the foot of a large-scale sculpture, which extends beyond the frame of the photograph.Image © LidBrooke / Henry Moore Carving Hollow Family Group 1954-55
6.

Kenneth Clark’s support was crucial to Henry Moore’s success

The immense contributions of the esteemed museum director, art historian, and broadcaster Kenneth Clark were pivotal to the flourishing career of Henry Moore. Notably, Clark had purchased several of Moore's poignant 1940 drawings depicting Londoners taking refuge from the Blitz in the London Underground. As chairman of the War Artists' Advisory Committee, Clark commissioned Moore to create additional drawings produced between the autumn of 1940 and the spring of 1941. These powerful pieces have since become some of the most significant artworks of World War II, capturing the sombre and harrowing reality of the era.

”Whenever I write to you, nowadays, it seems to be to thank you for something you've done for me.’’
Henry Moore in a letter to Kenneth Clark
A seated woman sculpture with a loosely abstracted figural form. Her legs are crossed, and her breasts are accentuated as she sits on a bench placed on a rectangular plinth.Image © Christie's / Seated Women With Crossed Feet © Henry Moore conceived in 1957 and cast in 1965
7.

Henry Moore was the seventh child of a coal miner

Henry Moore was born on 30 July 1898 in Yorkshire, the seventh child of a coal miner. Despite his father's desire for his children to pursue higher education and avoid working in the mines, he was unsupportive of Moore's artistic aspirations, viewing sculpture as manual labour.

Abstract sculpture of a reclining figure with knees propped up, resting on forearms. The sculpture's head faces the viewer, adorned with a headdress. Imprints of decorative sandals are visible, extending up to the knees. The figure's hands rest on its lap.Image © Wiki Commons / Chacmool © Ziko van Dijk 2015-07 k1 CDMX 830
8.

Aztec Statuary - The Chacmool, is considered Moore’s single greatest influence

Henry Moore found great inspiration in the Chacmool, a reclining Aztec sculpture from the pre-columbian era. His visits to the British Museum in the 1950s exposed him to a vast collection of sculptures characterised by complete cylindrical realisation, which influenced him in developing two major themes. One theme was the depiction of mother and child, blending Christian imagery with the essence of African art. Additionally, during a visit to the Paris Trocadero in 1924, Moore encountered a plaster cast of a Chacmool, the reclining figure that became a prominent motif in his sculptures, influencing his work throughout his life.

9.

A new generation of sculptors revolted against him

Henry Moore's profound impact on British sculpture left a lasting legacy, inspiring a generation of young sculptors to challenge and revolutionise the field even further. This influence was explicitly confronted during the New Aspects of British Sculpture exhibition at the British Pavilion in the 1952 Venice Biennale, where Moore and his contemporary, Barbara Hepworth, faced a direct challenge. The exhibition showcased a new wave of sculptors, including Kenneth Armitage, Lynn Chadwick, and Reg Butler, who collectively delved into a ”Geometry of Fear.’’ This artistic response, described by Herbert Read, emerged from the post-war existential crisis and found common ground with European post-war artists like Germaine Richier and Alberto Giacometti.

Abstract sculpture with exaggerated and distorted features. The reclining figure rests on its forearms, with a hollow hole in the centre of its chest.Image © The Henry Moore Foundation / Recumbent Figure © Henry Moore 1938
10.

Henry Moore rejected a Knighthood

Henry Moore, known for his political beliefs, declined a Knighthood in 1951. His refusal stemmed from his concern that it would distance him from other artists who shared his aspirations. Moore believed accepting the honour would create a perception of him as a figure of the establishment. Therefore, he infamously stated that ”such a title might tend to cut me off from fellow artists whose work has aims similar to mine.’’