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Henry Moore

British Sculptor

Movement: Surrealism

Born: July 30, 1898 - Castleford, Yorkshire, England

Died: August 31, 1986 - Much Hadham, East Hertfordshire, England

Henry Moore Timeline

Important Art by Henry Moore

The below artworks are the most important by Henry Moore - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Reclining Figure (1929)
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Reclining Figure (1929)

Artwork description & Analysis: This was the first figure Moore sculpted in brown Hornton stone, and it was heavily influenced by an Aztec sculpture, the Chacmool figure, of which he saw a cast in a Paris museum. Moore said of the Chacmool figure that it was the most important work to influence his early career: "Its stillness and alertness, a sense of readiness - and the whole presence of it, and the legs coming down like columns." Moore's own Reclining Figure is emblematic of the influence of non-Western art on his earliest work, something that came to him in part though Roger Fry's book Vision and Design. The figure is also one of the earliest instances of Moore's use of the reclining figure, a motif that would be central to his mature style.

Brown Hornton Stone - Leeds City Art Gallery

Four-Piece Composition: Reclining Figure (1934)
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Four-Piece Composition: Reclining Figure (1934)

Artwork description & Analysis: Four-Piece Composition illustrates the enormous impact that Surrealism had on Moore in the early 1930s - displacing his earlier interest in non-Western art. Inspiration for the piece may have come from Alberto Giacometti's Woman with Her Throat Cut (1932), since this would have provided Moore with the idea of fragmenting the figure, and dispersing it horizontally across its base (rather than making it stand erect, like a traditional monumental sculpture). Moore's piece is incised with fine diagrammatic lines, a technique common in his work in the 1930s. He may have derived this idea from Joan MirĂ³, though it may also have come from the work of the British Constructivist Ben Nicholson, who was a friend of Moore. In this respect Four-Piece Composition demonstrates how Moore combined such seemingly opposed currents as Constructivism and Surrealism.

Cumberland Alabaster - Tate Gallery, London

Bird Basket (1939)
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Bird Basket (1939)

Artwork description & Analysis: It has been suggested that the influence for this piece may have come from non-Western art, in particular from friction drums made on the Oceanic island of New Ireland. However, it also demonstrates the way Moore combined aspects of Surrealism and Constructivism in the 1930s, since the biomorphic form of the sculptures clearly derives from the former, while the geometry of the strings might derive from the latter. The piece also points to Moore's interest in open and closed forms: he was intrigued by the way it was possible to perceive continuities between the mass of an object and the space around it - the way, perhaps, the space around the Bird Basket grips it, rather than the other way around. The strings serve to emphasize the space around the figure, even though our eye can still see through them to the hard mass of the sculpture's body.

Lignum vitae and string - Henry Moore Foundation

Helmet (1939-40)
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Helmet (1939-40)

Artwork description & Analysis: This is the first of Moore's sculptures to feature the idea of internal and external forms. Not until the end of the 1940s did he return to the idea, but it became important to him, providing another means to pose the contrast between hard and soft that his sculptures often suggest. This piece may have been inspired by an illustration of ancient Greek tools, though Moore has said it may equally have come from his interest in armor, or from a remark made by the artist and writer Wyndham Lewis, about cutting into a lobster and finding it soft inside its hard shell.

Bronze - Henry Moore Foundation

Tube Shelter Perspective (1941)
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Tube Shelter Perspective (1941)

Artwork description & Analysis: At the outset of WWII, Moore was approached to be an official War Artist, but he declined, feeling that his style wasn't suitable to the work. However, one evening during the war, when he and his wife were returning from dinner with friends, they were forced to take shelter on the platform of Belsize Park tube station during a heavy air raid, and he was astonished at what he witnessed. "It was like a huge city in the bowels of the earth. When I first saw it...I saw hundreds of Henry Moore figures stretched along the platform." He drew the figures from memory on return to his studio, and went on to complete 3 sketchbooks full of drawings. The War Artists Committee later purchased a number of larger drawings from Moore, including Tube Shelter Perspective, and distributed them to galleries around England to help boost morale.

Pencil, ink, wax and watercolor on paper - Tate Gallery, London

Reclining Figure (1957-1958)
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Reclining Figure (1957-1958)

Artwork description & Analysis: The commission to produce a sculpture for the headquarters of UNESCO, in Paris, was Moore's first major international commission for public art. In later years he would become synonymous with such projects. It also occasioned his largest sculpture to date, a figure stretching over 16 feet in length. Originally commissioned by UNESCO to create a bronze sculpture, Moore felt the dark material would have rendered the piece ineffective against the building's glass background. Instead, he used travertine marble, the same material as the building's roof. This sculpture is a testament to his adaptability, with the finished sculpture weighing 39 tons and composed of four separate blocks of material. It has been described as a latter day Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom.

Travertine marble - UNESCO Headquarters, Paris



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Related Art and Artists

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)
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Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)

Artist: Pablo Picasso

Artwork description & Analysis: This painting was shocking even to Picasso's closest artist friends both for its content and its execution. The subject matter of nude women was not in itself unusual, but the fact that Picasso painted the women as prostitutes in aggressively sexual postures was novel. Picasso's studies of Iberian and tribal art is most evident in the faces of three of the women, which are rendered as mask-like, suggesting that their sexuality is not just aggressive, but also primitive. Picasso also went further with his spatial experiments by abandoning the Renaissance illusion of three-dimensionality, instead presenting a radically flattened picture plane that is broken up into geometric shards, something Picasso borrowed in part from Paul Cezanne's brushwork. For instance, the leg of the woman on the left is painted as if seen from several points of view simultaneously; it is difficult to distinguish the leg from the negative space around it making it appear as if the two are both in the foreground.

The painting was widely thought to be immoral when it was finally exhibited in public in 1916. Braque is one of the few artists who studied it intently in 1907, leading directly to his Cubist collaborations with Picasso. Because Les Demoiselles predicted some of the characteristics of Cubism, the work is considered proto or pre Cubism.

Oil on canvas - Museum of Modern Art, New York

Sleeping Muse I (1909-10)
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Sleeping Muse I (1909-10)

Artist: Constantin Brancusi

Artwork description & Analysis: Portraits, heads, and busts were frequent subjects for Brancusi, and he received several commissions for such work. With Sleeping Muse I, modeled on the Baroness Renee-Irana Frachon, Brancusi developed a distinctive form of the portrait bust, representing only its sitter's disembodied head. This work was Brancusi's first handling of the sleeping head, a thematic cycle that occupied the artist for roughly twenty years. The smoothness of the piece, achieved by the artist's practice of polishing the surface of his sculptures until they achieved a high gleam, contrasts with the carved definition of the sitter's facial features.

Marble - Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.

Gazing Head (1928)
Artwork Images

Gazing Head (1928)

Artist: Alberto Giacometti

Artwork description & Analysis: In his early years, Giacometti often experienced difficulty in sculpting from life. In this despair, he began to work from memory. The early plaster bust Gazing Head, arguably the artist's first truly original work, illustrates the culmination of this effort. The flatness of the head and face - Giacometti's economical placement of smooth divots for definition - result in a bust that is at once abstract and figurative. And yet the underlying theme of the work, the act of gazing, invites viewers to ponder whether what they are looking at is in fact a mirror. When Gazing Head was first exhibited in Paris in 1929, it immediately grabbed the attention of the French Surrealists, beginning an association that would cement the early part of Giacometti's career.

Plaster - Alberto Giacometti-Stiftung, Zurich

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