Henry Moore

Biography of Henry Moore

Few artists have left a more celebrated and influential presence than the great British artist Henry Moore. Undoubtedly one of the most important sculptors of the 20th century, his work can be found in most major cities around the world. Committed to the principle of “truth to materials", and the formation of a relationship between the human figure and the natural landscape, this highly engaged artist symbolized the new humanistic ideals of the Western World.


Born in 1898, Henry Moore was the son of a Yorkshire miner and the seventh of eight children. After a brief stint as a teacher, he volunteered for the British Army and fought in the First World War until he was injured in a gas attack. After the War he enrolled at the Leeds School of Art where he met the sculptor Barbara Hepworth, before going on to study at the Royal College of Art in London. Although a keen student, he claimed to have learnt more from his frequent visits to the ethnographic collections at the British Museum than college.


Quickly establishing himself as one of Britain’s leading avant-garde artists, Henry Moore began working closely with a group of artists that included Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Naum Gabo. He took over the Sculpture Department at the Chelsea School of Art in 1932, but resigned the post on the outbreak of World War II, to accept the role as an official war artist. His sketches from this time of Londoners cowering from the bombs on the platforms of Tube stations, are now synonymous with that terrifying time in history, and remain deeply loved.


After his London flat was bombed during the War, Henry Moore moved to Perry Green, a countryside farmhouse, he would remain there for the rest of his life. The gardens were beautifully attended to by his wife Irina Radetsky. By now enjoying significant international success, his sculptures were seen to represent humanist values embodied in modernism and in stark opposition to Fascism.


In 1946 he travelled to America to see a retrospective of his artwork at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In that same year his daughter Mary was born. Increasingly interested in abstraction, he began playing with notions of negative and positive space, frequently inserting large holes in his work. Through his sculptures he diffused his own distinct set of influences, from Surrealism to Primitivism and even Constructivism.


The 1950s were the beginning of an enormously successful period for the artist, who controversially began to employ a large team of assistants to fulfil the demand of his work. By the 1970s his work was being shown in over 40 shows a year and he was the world’s most financially successful artist. In 1951 he turned down a Knighthood on the grounds that he did not want to be separated from his fellow artists, however he did receive the Order of Merit in 1963, and later he became a trustee of both the Tate and the National Gallery in London. His reclining figures and family sculptures adorn the headquarters of numerous humanitarian institutions around the world.  


In 1948 and again in 1952 he was center stage at the Venice Biennale having had a large retrospective of his work in 1951 at the Tate London. The largest exhibition of his work ever to take place was in Florence in the Forte di Belvedere. In 1977 the Henry Moore Foundation was set up to promote and administer his artwork, the foundation is also the custodian of the Perry Green estate. The artist died in 1986 aged in 88. 

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