Henry Spencer Moore was an English sculptor best known for his semi-abstract monumental bronze sculptures which are located around the world. His forms are usually abstractions of the human figure, typically depicting mother-and-child or reclining figures. His forms are generally pierced or contain hollow spaces.
Moore was born in Castleford. His father was a miner determined that his son would not work like him. Henry was the seventh of eight children in a family that often struggled with poverty. He professed to have decided to become a sculptor when he was eleven and at Castleford Grammar School his headmaster soon noticed his talent. Despite his early promise, Moore's parents had been against him training as a sculptor. Upon turning eighteen, Moore volunteered for army service. He was injured in 1917 but recalled later, "for me the war passed in a romantic haze of trying to be a hero."
After the war Moore continued his education and in 1919 he became a student at the Leeds School of Art, which set up a sculpture studio especially for him. At the college, he met Barbara Hepworth In 1921, Moore won a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art in London. While in London, he extended his knowledge of primitive art and sculpture. The student sculptures of Moore followed the standard romantic Victorian style, he later became uncomfortable with classically derived ideals; in which imperfections in the material and marks left by tools became part of the finished sculpture. Having adopted this technique, Moore was in conflict with academic tutors who did not appreciate such a modern approach.
In 1924, Moore spent 6 months in Northern Italy studying the great works of Michelangelo and several other Old Masters. During this period he also visited Paris. On returning to London, Moore undertook a seven-year teaching post at the Royal College of Art. He was required to work two days a week, which allowed him time to spend on his own work. In July 1929, Moore married Irina Radetsky, a painting student at the Royal College.
In 1932, after six year's teaching at the Royal College, Moore took up a post as the Head of the Department of Sculpture at the Chelsea School of Art. Artistically, Moore, Hepworth and other members of The Seven and Five Society would develop steadily more abstract work, partly influenced by their frequent trips to Paris and their contact with leading progressive artists. Moore flirted with Surrealism. He was on the organising committee of the International Surrealist Exhibition, which took place in London in 1936. At this time Moore gradually transitioned from direct carving to casting in bronze, modelling preliminary maquettes in clay or plaster rather than making preparatory drawings.
This inventive and productive period was brought to an end by the outbreak of the Second World War. During the war, Moore was commissioned as a war artist. These drawings helped to boost Moore's international reputation, particularly in America. After the war and following several earlier miscarriages, Irina gave birth to their daughter, Mary Moore. The loss of his mother two years ago and the arrival of a baby focused Moore's mind on the family, which he expressed by producing many "mother-and-child" compositions.
In 1946 Moore made his first visit to America when a retrospective exhibition of his work opened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. In the 1950s, Moore began to receive increasingly significant commissions. With many more public works of art, the scale of Moore's sculptures grew significantly and he started to employ an increasing number of assistants to work with him. The last three decades of Moore's life continued in a similar vein; several major retrospectives and the number of commissions continued to increase. With the help of his daughter Mary, he set up the Henry Moore Trust in 1972.
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