Seated Nude, 1929
Three Heads, 1979
b. 1898, Castelford England
d. 1986, Much Hadham, England
British artist Henry Moore is arguably one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. Celebrated as a sculptor, Moore was strongly influenced in his formative years by painters such as Giotto, Masaccio, Blake, Turner, and Picasso, as well as the painter/sculptor Michelangelo. He himself was a skilled draughtsman. He adopted aesthetic innovations from both Constructivism and Surrealism, synthesizing the two into his own unique form of figurative abstraction. Organic shapes, not only of the human body, but also of shells, bones, and rocks, inspired Moore’s work.
While growing up, Moore showed an early artistic inclination. He began working with clay while still a schoolboy. After serving in the Civil Service Rifles regiment during World War I, Moore was accepted into the Leeds School of Art. Two years later, he was awarded a scholarship to study sculpture at the Royal College of Art in London. Subsequently, he taught at the Royal College from 1924–1931 and at the Chelsea School of Art from 1932–1939. The Warren Gallery gave him his first solo show in 1928 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. During this time, Moore was a member of the Seven and Five Society, and he was invited to join Unit One—a group whose members included Edward Burra, Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, and Edward Wadsworth. Many of these artists, including Moore, would become associated with the artist collective in St. Ives, Cornwall.
Unusual for a sculptor, Moore often used color in his drawings and 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. During the Second World War, as an Official War Artist, Moore made a series of drawings of people sheltering in the London Underground, frequently using watercolor over wax crayon. These hauntingly beautiful images captured the psychological trauma of the London Blitz and inspired his monumental sculptures in reclining postures.
Moore was given his first overseas retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1946. In 1948, he won the International Sculpture Prize at the Venice Biennale. He had retrospective exhibitions at the Tate Gallery, London in 1951 and 1968. By the 1970s, Moore was exhibiting internationally in over forty shows per year. Today, his work can be found in numerous public collections of Modern art, and his sculptures can be found in public spaces in major cities around the world.