Henry Moore

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Henry Moore (photography by Allan Warren , 1975)
Henry Moore (public domain photography by Lothar Wolleh , no year)

Henry Moore (born July 30, 1898 in Castleford , Yorkshire , † August 31, 1986 in Much Hadham , Hertfordshire ) was an English sculptor and draftsman .

Moore is known for his large, abstract sculptures that are exhibited worldwide. The works are mostly abstractions of the human body, typically as "mother and child" or as a "resting figure". With the exception of a brief period in the 1950s when Moore created family groups, Moore mostly depicts female characters.


Family and Early Years

Moore was born in Castleford in West Yorkshire, UK, in 1898, the seventh of eight children to Raymond Spencer Moore and Mary Baker. His father was an employee in a mine and wanted his children to have a good education in order to prevent one of his children from also having to work in the mine.

Moore decided to become a sculptor at the age of eleven. With the support of his art teacher, he began modeling in clay and carving wood at an early age. His parents were against a career as a sculptor because it was physical work for them.

In 1917, shortly after his 18th birthday, Moore was drafted into military service. He was the youngest in his regiment, the “Civil Service Rifles” and took part in the Battle of Cambrai , where he was injured during a gas attack . He recovered quickly, but was no longer involved in active fighting for the remainder of the First World War . In contrast to the experiences of many of his contemporaries, Moore suffered no trauma; Moore himself said about this time: "For me the war passed in a romantic haze trying to be a hero ( for me the war passed in a romantic haze of trying to be a hero )".

After the war, Moore received a scholarship as a combat participant to continue his studies. In 1919 Moore became the first student at the Leeds School of Art to study sculpture - the first thing his art school had to do was to set up a suitable studio for him.

Art college

Moore met Barbara Hepworth while at the Leeds School of Art and began a friendship with her that would last for many years. Michael Sadler, the Vice Chancellor at the Leeds School of Art, confronted him at an early stage with the sculptures of African tribes.

In 1921 Moore received a scholarship to continue his education at the Royal College of Art in London, where Hepworth had been studying for a year. London gave him the opportunity to continue studying African work. He spent a lot of time at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum studying the collections there.

Both Moore's and Hepworth's early works correspond to traditional art classes, which Moore in particular felt increasingly uncomfortable with. Inspired by the African sculptures and under the influence of sculptors such as Constantin Brâncuși , Jacob Epstein and Frank Dobson , he began to work directly on his material, including irregularities in the material and the traces of processing in his sculpture. This way of working met little support from his art professors. One of the tasks set by Derwent Wood , professor of sculpture at the Royal College of Art, was to first recreate the marble relief "The Virgin and Child" by Domenico Rosselli in clay and then to reproduce it in marble using a mechanical transfer method. Moore imitated the model directly in marble, even imitating the features on the surface that the mechanical form of transfer would have left behind.

In 1924 Moore was awarded a six-month travel grant that enabled him to study the work of Michelangelo , Giotto, and other masters in northern Italy . In later years Moore often stated that his encounter with Michelangelo's work had a decisive influence on him.

Life in Hampstead

After returning to London, Moore himself began teaching at the Royal College of Art . His teaching duties only required him to be present in college two days a week so that he would have ample time for his own work.

In July 1929 he married Irina Radetsky , an art student at the Royal College of Art who specialized in painting. She was born on March 26, 1907 in Kiev to Russian-Polish parents. Her father disappeared in the turmoil of the Russian Revolution , her mother fled to Paris , where she married a British officer a little later. Irina followed her a year later and attended school in Paris until she was 16. She then lived with relatives of her stepfather in Buckinghamshire . Irina, who was of a calm and reserved disposition, was Moore's preferred model.

Shortly after the wedding, Henry and Irina Moore moved into a studio in the London borough of Hampstead , where a number of artists who belonged to the avant-garde at the time had already settled . Shortly after them, Barbara Hepworth and her partner and later husband Ben Nicholson also moved into their area. Also Naum Gabo and the art critic Herbert Read lived in the immediate area. The proximity to colleagues was artistically fruitful for Henry Moore, and Read published regularly about it, so that Moore was increasingly noticed by the British public.

In the early 1930s, Moore was appointed director of sculpture at the Chelsea School of Art . In parallel with the work of Barbara Hepworth, Moore's works also became increasingly abstract. Regular trips to Paris contributed to this, where she met various artists such as Pablo Picasso , Georges Braque , Hans Arp and Alberto Giacometti . Moore also dealt with surrealism and in 1933 joined Paul Nash's "Unit One Group" . At the same time, Moore increasingly refrained from working directly on the sculptures and created the templates for his bronze sculptures in clay or plaster . In 1936 he was involved in the organization of the International Surrealist Exhibition in the New Burlington Galleries in London and with works.

The time of the Second World War

This innovative and productive phase in Moore's work ended with the outbreak of World War II . The Chelsea School of Art was relocated to Northampton and Moore gave up his teaching post . During the war years Moore received commissions as a war artist and, above all, created powerful drawings of the people who sought refuge in the underground during the bombing of London. These drawings made Moore internationally known, especially in the USA.

After the Hampstead apartment was hit by a bomb, Moore and his wife Irina from London moved to a farmhouse called "Hoglands" in the small village of Perry Green near Much Hadham , Hertfordshire , which is now the Henry Moore Sculpture Perry Park Green is located. This house remained Moore's home until the end of his life. Although he later achieved considerable wealth, Moore never saw the need to move to a larger house, and other than building a number of workshop buildings on the property surrounding his house, the house remained unchanged.

International recognition

"Reclining Figure" (1951) by Henry Moore

After Irina Moore suffered several miscarriages, their daughter Mary was born on March 7, 1946. The child was named after Moore's mother, who had died a few years earlier. The birth of the daughter led Moore to create a series of "mother and child" compositions. In the same year Moore visited the United States for the first time. The New York Museum of Modern Art honored him with a major exhibition, and in 1948 he received the International Sculpture Prize at the Venice Biennale .

As early as the end of the Second World War, Moore had been approached by Henry Morris , who wanted to reform the education system by setting up community colleges (village colleges). Morris had won Walter Gropius as the architect for the planned community college building in Impington , and Moore was to create a large sculpture that would adorn the square in front of the building. For financial reasons, the building and sculpture could not be realized; Moore used the design in 1950 for a similar commissioned work. For the square in front of a secondary school in Stevenage , he created a “Family Group” (external link) - it was Moore's first large-scale public sculpture.

Numerous others followed this order - among other things, he created a monumental sculpture for the forecourt of the Unesco building in Paris in 1957. Due to the numerous public commissions, the format of Moore's work increased significantly, and he began to work with a team of assistants.

1957 to 1986

"Wirbel" (1968/1969) Münster
Henry Moore: " Liegende " (1969) Neue Pinakothek Munich

Large retrospectives and large commissioned works characterized his work from 1957 to 1986. One of the most famous exhibitions took place in the summer of 1972 on the grounds of the Forte di Belvedere near Florence (external link). By the late 1970s, Henry Moore's work was shown in an average of forty exhibitions a year.

Henry Moore was a participant in documenta 1 (1955), documenta II (1959), documenta III (1964) and also documenta 6 in 1977 in Kassel . In 1961 a work by Moore was installed for the first time in Berlin (West), a "reclining figure" from 1956, which found its place in the Hansaviertel in front of the Academy of Arts. This list contributed significantly to the recognition of the artist in Germany.

Henry Moore repeatedly received public commissions for large sculptures. In 1962 he created the sculpture "Knife Edge Two Piece" for a square near the Palace of Westminster , London. Moore said:

“When I was shown the square near the House of Lords , I liked it so much that I - not even looking at the alternative location in Hyde Park - a lonely sculpture in a large park can look lost. The place in front of the House of Lords, on the other hand, is completely different. There is a path in the immediate vicinity where people come by, and there is an opportunity for them to sit down and look at the sculpture. "

Moore had become considerably prosperous from the numerous assignments and he was increasingly concerned about his legacy. With the support of his daughter Mary, he founded the "Henry Moore Trust" in 1972, which was supposed to prevent excessively high inheritance tax from being paid on his estate . In 1977 his income was so substantial that 97 percent of it was paid in tax of about a million pounds. In order to reduce this tax burden somewhat, he founded the "Henry Moore Foundation" in 1977 as a non-profit foundation . Irene and Mary Moore were appointed to the Board of Trustees. The aim of the foundation was to promote the public perception of art and to preserve Moore's sculptures. Today the foundation maintains the Hogland farmhouse as a gallery and museum.

In Germany, Moore became known to a wider public when the first landlord, Helmut Schmidt of the Bonn Federal Chancellery, had the sculpture Large Two Forms (cast by the art foundry Hermann Noack ) by Henry Moore erected there in 1979 .

Characteristics of his work

  • "Truthfulness to the material" (according to Moore a stone sculpture must honestly resemble the stone; to make it look like a being made of flesh and blood is sleight of hand),
  • "Full three-dimensional realization" of the plastic idea,
  • "Observation of objects of nature" and
  • "Vitality and Power of Expression"

In his works, the focus was always on the human being. Its shapes and motifs unconsciously tell of the situation of people today, reflect the zeitgeist of our epoch. His ability to open up new forms of expression for humanism in our time had a decisive influence on sculpture in the 20th century.

Public honors

Moore rejected the elevation into the British nobility in 1951. In 1955, however, he was awarded the Companion of Honor and in 1963 was accepted into the Order of Merit . Also in 1963 he was awarded an international Antonio Feltrinelli Prize . Since 1961 he was an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters . In 1966 he became a member ( fellow ) of the British Academy . In 1972 he was accepted as an external member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts . In 1978 he received the Austrian Decoration of Honor for Science and Art . In 1980 he was accepted into the American Philosophical Society . After his death on August 31, 1986, his ashes were buried in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral in London .

Permanent exhibitions

Moore's sculptures and drawings are exhibited in numerous art museums around the world. Notable collections of his work can be found in the following art collections:


Art theft

The theft of Henry Moore's plastic "Reclining Figure", works catalog number LH608, which was loaded onto a stolen low-loader on December 15, 2005 in front of running surveillance cameras just after 9 p.m. on the grounds of the Henry Moore Foundation in Perry Green, caused a sensation . The plastic has not reappeared since then. At Scotland Yard, it is believed that the 2.1 tonne work of art was stolen and melted down because of its material value. The material value of the bronze sculpture, at around 7,500 euros, is far below the price of 4.4 million euros that can be achieved on the art market.

The robbery was processed by the German artist Fritz Balthaus in his work Pure Moore .

Overview of the chronology of his life

  • 1910 Castleford Elementary School
  • 1915 Secondary School
  • In February 1917 he was drafted into the 15th London Regiment
  • November 1917 in the Battle of Cambrai he was wounded in a gas attack and sent back to London.
  • Demobilized in February 1919, he initially became a teacher again; in September, however, he receives a scholarship and enrolls at the School of Art in Leeds. There is no sculpture training, so the school is setting up its own faculty for moors.
  • 1921 scholarship for the London Royal College of Art (scholarships to Paris and Italy follow).
  • In 1925 the Royal College of Art committed the 28-year-old to 7 years as a teacher.
  • 1928 first solo exhibition at Warren Gallery, London.
  • 1929 marriage and the first lying figure.
  • 1930 member of the Unit One group
  • In 1932 he took over the sculpture training at the Chelsea School of Art until 1939
  • 1936 travels to Spain and moves to Much Hadham
  • 1941 Trustee of the Tate Gallery
  • 1945 Honorary Doctorate from the University of Leeds
  • 1946 his daughter is born and he goes to New York for the retrospective of the Museum of Modern Art
  • 1948 Grand Prize for Plastic at the Venice Biennale
  • 1951 trip to Greece
  • 1951–1954 he developed the concept of a reclining figure , which separates the core and shell in order to reunite them at the end.
  • 1952 Moore begins the "warrior"
  • 1953 honorary doctorate from the University of London; Trip to Brazil and Mexico
  • Major works of the 1950s: König ( bronze , 1952–53), warrior with shield (bronze 1952–53), Wall Relief No. 1 (brick 1955) at Bouwcenrum Rotterdam , upright totemic motifs such as the Glenkiln Cross (bronze, 1955–56) and the reclining figure (1956–58).
  • 1958 Honorary Doctorate from Harvard University
  • 1959 honorary doctorate from Cambridge
  • 1968 increased graphic work (over 260 lithographs , including the series “Elefantenschädel”, “Auden”, “Stonehenge”) and received the Erasmus Prize .
  • 1976 honorary citizen of Milan
  • 1978 Henry Moore Sculpture Center in Toronto opens with more than 500 works.
  • Art Awards: 1948 in Venice, 1953 in São Paulo, 1958 in Pittsburgh, 1959 in Tokyo; Cologne awarded him the Stefan Locher Medal in 1957; 1975 first laureate of the Goslarer Kaiserring


See also


  • Henry Moore: About the plastic. A sculptor sees his art. Piper, Munich 1972, ISBN 3-492-01909-9 .


  • Roger Berthoud: The Life of Henry Moore. London / New York 1987. (New edition: De la Mare, London 2003, ISBN 1-900357-22-4 )
  • Gero von Boehm : Henry Moore. March 17, 1982 . Interview in: Encounters. Images of man from three decades . Collection Rolf Heyne, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-89910-443-1 , pp. 13-17.
  • Werner Hofmann (editor and author of an introduction): Henry Moore: Writings and sculptures. Fischer Bücherei, Frankfurt am Main 1959, DNB 453451772 .
  • John Hedgecoe: A Monumental Vision: The Sculpture of Henry Moore. Collins & Brown, 1998, ISBN 1-55670-683-9 .
  • Philip James (Ed.): Henry Moore on Sculpture. London 1966, New York 1967. (New edition: Viking Press, New York 1971, ISBN 0-670-01920-8 )
  • Alan Wilkinson (Ed.): Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations. Lund Humphries, Aldershot 2002, ISBN 0-85331-847-6 .
  • Wilfried Seipel (Ed.): Henry Moore 1898–1986, A retrospective on the 100th birthday. Exhibition catalog of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna. Vienna 1998, ISBN 3-7757-0762-X , pp. 59-76.
  • Henry Moore Shelter Sketch-Book. Rembrandt-Verlag, Berlin 1981, ISBN 3-7925-0267-3 .

Web links

Commons : Henry Moore  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Susanne Kähler: Steel sculptures in Berlin - to establish the material in public space. In: Der Bär von Berlin 2005. (= Yearbook of the Association for the History of Berlin. Volume 54). Berlin / Bonn 2005, p. 133.
  2. ^ Honorary Members: Henry Moore. American Academy of Arts and Letters, accessed March 16, 2019 .
  3. ^ Deceased Fellows. British Academy, accessed July 8, 2020 .
  4. ^ Member History: Henry Moore. American Philosophical Society, accessed February 3, 2019 .
  5. In praise of ... Henry Moore. A new exhibition at Tate Britain reveals the great sculptor in darker, and deeper relief. In: The Guardian . February 23, 2010.
  6. See Draped Reclining Figure