Henry Moore


Henry Moore

Henry Moore in his studio, mid-1960s; photo by Gisèle Freund.

English, 1898 – 1986

Henry Moore was born in England in 1898 into a family of eight children. Though they were of modest means, Moore’s parents were intent on providing their children with a quality formal education. Henry was introduced to sculpture in elementary school where he created models in clay; art instructors soon recognized his talent and encouraged him to expand his knowledge of art history. Following his service in the British army during the First World War, Moore continued his artistic studies at the Leeds School of Art, where he met the artist Barbara Hepworth. The two would become lifelong friends and friendly rivals.

In 1921, Henry Moore received a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London. This opportunity enabled him to explore a variety of artistic styles through frequent exploration of London’s art museums. In 1924, Moore traveled to Italy and France on scholarship, where he studied the work of one of his artistic heroes, Michelangelo. But it was during his time in Paris that Moore became enamored with the subject of the reclining figure, which would become a major sculptural motif throughout his career.

After returning to London, Henry Moore worked as a teacher and continued to develop his own artistic style. He became a member of a small avant-garde artist’s group called the Seven and Five Society. Over the course of the 1930s, Moore’s style became increasingly abstract, as he discovered and was influenced by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Jean Arp.  It was during this same period that commission and exhibition opportunities began to emerge for the artist. By the late 1930s, Moore began to work in bronze for the first time.

As World War Two raged, Henry Moore’s career and reputation flourished. In 1946, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City gave him his first retrospective exhibition, which traveled to other locations in the US and Australia and earned him international acclaim. By the 1950s, Moore was earning significant commissions for public sculptures, and his style and treatment of figures became yet more abstract. He once said: “there are universal shapes to which everyone is subconsciously conditioned and to which they can respond if their conscious control does not shut them off.”

Moore’s later years featured continued success as well as several major retrospectives. With great success came heavy income taxes, and Moore established the Henry Moore Foundation in 1977 as a registered charity to alleviate the tax burden and protect his estate. Moore died in 1986 at the age of 88. Henry Moore is now regarded as one of the most important British sculptors in history and as one of the most important artists of the 20th century. His semi-abstract, monumental sculptures of the human figure grace public squares and parks all over the world.