Henry Moore (1898 – 1986) was an English sculptor and artist. He was best known for his semi-abstract monumental bronze sculptures which are located around the world as public works of art.
His forms are usually abstractions of the human figure, typically depicting mother-and-child or reclining figures. Moore's works are usually suggestive of the female body, apart from a phase in the 1950s when he sculpted family groups. His forms are generally pierced or contain hollow spaces. Many interpreters liken the undulating form of his reclining figures to the landscape and hills of his birthplace, Yorkshire.
Henry Moore was born on 30 July, 1898, in Castleford, Yorkshire. He was the seventh child in a family of 8 children. His father worked in a colliery in Castleford but wanted his children to avoid working down the mines, so as much as possible given the family's poverty, the children were educated at a local school.
It was in his teenage years that he developed an interest and talent in art. This helped him to get a scholarship to Castleford Secondary school. Aged 18 he was called up to the army and in 1917 was injured during a gas attack at the Battle of Cambrai. After his injury, he spent the remainder of the war behind the line training new recruits. Moore later said the war was for him not a traumatic experience - unlike that of many of his contemporaries.
After the war, he continued his education and in 1921 won a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art. Henry Moore was a talented student, but already he was experimenting with new styles and this often conflicted with his teachers who were trying to teach the classic style - of perfection in form and composition. Moore was attracted to a more spontaneous art form with imperfections evident in the sculpting. In 1924, he spent time travelling in Italy and later Paris. Here he could view the great Masters such as Michelangelo and Giovanni Pisano. But, Moore was also influenced by his studies of primitive art, and at the Louvre he was particularly influenced by the Toltec-Maya sculptural form, the Chac Mool.
On his return to London, he took up a teaching post at the Royal College of art. This part time post enabled him to work on his own art, leading to his first commissions such as the West Wind - 1928-29.
In the 1930s, Moore became an active member of the informal modern art movement, centred around the ideas and innovation of people like Pablo Picasso and Jean Arp. He also briefly flirted with the surrealist movement.
The Second World War led to more traditional commissions and Moore worked as a war artist producing memorable pictures such as images of civilians fleeing the Blitz in the London underground.
This helped Moore's reputation and after the war led to numerous awards and opportunities in America. In 1948 he was awarded the International Sculpture Prize at the Venice Biennale.
In 1972, Henry Moore established his Henry Moore Foundation - a charitable trust to promote art education and the support of young artists. He was a man of modest means. Despite his wealth and fame he lived frugally remembering his Yorkshire roots. He even turned down a knighthood in 1951 because he didn't want to be seen as an establishment figure. Yet, during his lifetime he did become the dominant sculpture of his generation.
Moore's first solo sculpture exhibition was held at Warren Gallery in London in 1928. His first retrospective took place at Temple Newsam, Leeds, in 1941. Moore was given his first major retrospective abroad by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1946. In 1948, Moore was one of the featured artists of the Festival of Britain in 1951 and documenta 1 in 1955. His sculpture and drawings have since been the subject of many museum exhibitions and retrospectives, including the Whitechapel Gallery, London (1957); Tate Gallery, London (1968); Forte di Belvedere, Florence (1972); Tate Gallery and the Serpentine Gallery, London for the occasion of Moore's eightieth birthday (1978); Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1983); Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Alex Rosenberg, in dialogue with Helaine Blumenfeld New York (1985),Wakefield (1987); Royal Academy of Arts, London (1988); Shanghai Art Museum (2001); National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. (2001); CaixaForum, Barcelona, (2008); Kunsthal, Rotterdam (2006, travelled to Didrichsen Art Museum, Helsinki in 2008); Kew Botanical Gardens, London (2007–08); Tate Britain (2010); and the Kremlin Museum, Moscow (2012).