Progression of Art
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
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 Miró, 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
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
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
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
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