Henry Moore

British sculptor known for his large semi-abstract sculptures of the human figure. Henry Moore is considered the most outstanding British sculptor of the 20th century and his work had a strong influence on contemporary figurative sculpture.

Moore was born in Castleford, Yorkshire, on July 30, 1898. From 1919 to 1925 he studied at the Leeds School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London. His early works, executed in the 1920s, show influences from the pre-Columbian art of the Americas, the massive figures of Italian Renaissance artists Masaccio and Michelangelo, and the stylized forms of Romanian-born French sculptor Constantin Brancusi. In the 1930s, the work of Pablo Picasso and contemporary abstract artists were strong influences; many of Moore’s works from that period are highly abstract and consist of simplified, rounded pieces carved from wood, with numerous slits and holes often covered with veils of thin metal wires. However, the most important and lasting influence on Moore’s work was the world of nature. “The human figure,” he later wrote, “is what interests me most, but I have found principles of form and rhythm in the study of natural objects, such as pebbles, rocks, bones, trees and plants.”

In his mature works, beginning with Reclining Figure (1936, City Art Gallery, Wakefield, England), Moore employed swollen forms, undulating extensions and rounded indentations that reflect natural forms. His favorite subjects include mother and child and family groups, fallen warriors and, most characteristically, the reclining human figure, which he continued to depict throughout his career, working in wood, stone and, after 1950, bronze. later in marble. These works range from the realistic, such as Draped Reclining Figure (1953, Time-Life Building, London), a huge sculpture by Henry Moore of a woman reclining on her elbows, to the abstract, such as Internal and External Forms (1954, Albright -Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York), a large rounded bronze sculpture pierced by a hollow interior containing a second abstract metal form.

Unlike Moore’s preparatory sketches for his sculpture, a series of drawings of Londoners huddled in subway stations during World War II air raids are considered works of art in their own right. These drawings of the so-called shelters (1940 and later) poignantly express the impact of the war on defenseless civilians. One of the largest collections of sculptures, drawings and prints by Henry Moore is owned by the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.

Among his major public commissions are outdoor sculptures for UNESCO headquarters in Paris (1958); Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York (1965); Toronto City Hall, Ontario (1966); and the East Building of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (1978). Moore died in Much Hadham, England, on August 31, 1986.