30 July 1898 – 31 August 1986
Henry Spencer Moore was born on July 30th, 1898 in Castleford, Yorkshire. He was the seventh of eight children. Moore’s father, Raymond Spencer Moore, a miner himself, was determined that not a single one of his children would have to work in the mines and with the support of his parents Henry Moore went on to attend the local school.Moores first artistic influence came from his art teacher at Castelford, Miss Alice Gostick, whose enthusiasm and interest in all art forms encouraged Henry Moore to make a place for his art outside of the classroom. Moore began carving in wood and modeling in clay and is said to have decided to become a sculptor upon learning of Michelangelos achievements when he was eleven years old.Although eligible to attend the local art college, Henry Moore was dissuaded to follow what his parents perceived as a form of manual labour and was encouraged to become a teacher. This was on the eve of the First World War and in 1917 Moore was enlisted in the army and sent to fight in France. He was gassed at the battle of Cambrai and returned to England to convalesce. In 1919 he became the first ever student of sculpture at Leeds School of Art. During this time, while continuing to attend classes with Miss Gostick he met the great collector Sir Michael Sadler (the then Vice-Chancellor) who was an early buyer of Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh as well as Tribal Art. It was here that Moore would have first seen examples of primitive African art.Moore maintained that his career as an artist began with the discovery of Roger Frys 1920 Vision and Design, notably the essay on African Sculpture and another on Ancient American art.In 1921, Moore won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London where he would settle for the next twenty years. Needless to say, the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum were immensely important during Moores time as a student and his notebooks from this period are replete with sketches of the various ethnicities that he discovered in Londons museums. Moores sculptures from the twenties and early thirties are perfect examples of deeply romantic English Lyricism with a great feeling for landscape and natural forms. His inspiration was not found in Classical or Renaissance sculpture but in tribal art, non-western art, particularly early pieces from Africa and Mexico. An early work in this style is the 1929 Reclining Figure, which was later sold to the Leeds City Art Gallery. The pose and block-like masses are clearly inspired by Pre-Columbian Chacmool (rain god) figures. Moore was also influenced by his contemporaries, Brancusi and Epstein and like them; he rejected established academic practices in favour of direct treatment of natural material by using techniques such as direct carving. Although revolutionary, Moores early work was rarely appreciated by the critics of the time who found them overly primitive, even monstrous.In 1924 Moore was awarded a traveling scholarship by the Royal Academy that enabled him to study the Renaissance masters in Italy for six months. By the end of 1925 he had assimilated the main influences that were to determine his oeuvre for the rest of his life.The year 1928 marks a turning point in Moores career, and the beginning of recognition. He held his first solo exhibition at the Warren Gallery, London and received his first public commission to produce a relief for the new London Transport headquarters above St. James Park underground station. With the West Wind Relief, his first effort at public art, Moore was able to realize his work on a monumental scale. A second one-man show followed at the Leicester Galleries in London in 1931.Moore had accepted a seven-year appointment teaching sculpture at the RCA that both allowed him to earn a living and gave him the freedom to develop his own work. He met and eventually married Irina Radetsky, a painting student at the college. The couple lived in Hampstead and were part of a circle of artists including the likes of Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Naum Gabo and Herbert Read. This original group would be the foundation of the ‘7 & 5 Society’ (for seven painters and five sculptors). ‘7 & 5’ exhibited together until 1935. Moore was also part of Paul Nashs ‘Unit One’ which equally exhibited together. Moore left the RCA in 1932 for a position as head of sculpture at the Chelsea School of Art.As early as 1934, Henry Moore was becoming well known and the first monograph of his work by Herbert Read established his reputation as one of Britains foremost modern sculptors. Following Alfred Barrs ‘Cubism and Abstract Art’ exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the museum purchased the wooden sculpture Two Forms, which became the first Moore in an American public collection.During the 30s Moore visited Paris frequently, establishing vital relationships with Picasso, Arp and Giacometti. Both the Surrealist Movement and the contemporary movement towards abstraction are the two determining influences on Moores work at this time, in spite of the fact that the two movements, at the time, were bitterly opposed. Moore participated in the International Surrealist Exhibition at the New Burlington galleries in London and became a member of the English Surrealist Group in 1937.The outbreak of war brought an end not only to Moores teaching career (he resigned when the Chelsea School of Art was evacuated to Northampton) but marks the end of a highly productive period in his work and its growing recognition internationally.In 1940, when their home in Hampstead was damaged by nearby bombs the Moores left London, moving forty miles north to an old farmhouse in Hertfordshire. In March of 1946, Irena gave birth to Mary, a first and only child. This event renewed Moores interest in the theme of the mother and child and family groups.The family remained in Perry Green and Moore maintained a simple lifestyle in spite of the wealth he accumulated in the years to come. His one indulgence was his collection of works by Courbet, Ruskin, Seurat, Picasso, Degas, Vuillard, Rodin, Cézanne, Goya and others. Holidays were spent at his home in Italy near the Carrara marble region.The recognition that Moore came to know internationally during the 40s was in part based not on his sculpture but on his series of Shelter Drawings. The then director of the National Gallery, Sir Kenneth Clark appointed Moore an Official War artist in 1941. These works of the English huddling in the London Underground brought a more sympathetic and popular reaction to his work that had previously been considered radical and controversial.In 1943, the Canon Walter Hussey, a clergyman with a taste for modern art, asked Moore for a Madonna and Child for his church of St. Mathews in Northampton. Hussey also wanted a strong painting on the wall opposite the one chosen to house the Madonna and Child. Moore recommended Sutherland for the subsequent Crucifixion. The 1944 stone Madonna and Child is a key work in Moores public oeuvre, imbued with warmth and humanity inspired by his well-loved theme. The 1943 solo exhibition in New York at the Buchholz Gallery is just one of the long list of exhibitions, prizes and honors that came to Moore internationally from this point in his life through the next 30 years. He was appointed trustee of the Tate Gallery in London from 1949 to 1956 and then, from 1955 to 1974 was appointed trustee to the National Gallery in London.Notable among the international commissions are the monumental Reclining Figure for the UNESCO headquarters in Paris and the abstract Knife Edge Two Piece that stands outside the Houses of Parliament. The scale and quality of his work evolved and in total there exist some 919 sculptures. Henry Moore sculptures have been placed in more public places than any other sculptor in history and upon his death, on August 31,1986 at the age of 88 he was described by the Daily Telegraph as being the most ‘internationally acclaimed of Englishman’ since the death of Winston Churchill.