Moore, Henry

Moore, Henry
   b. 1898, Castleford; d. 1986, Perry Green, Hertfordshire
   Henry Moore dominated British sculpture in the twentieth century. Rejecting the classicism of academic sculpture, Moore was influenced by the stylized figures of ‘primitive art’ (Reclining Woman, 1929, Leeds City Art Gallery) and modernist art from continental Europe. His most experimental work combines surrealism and the biomorphism of Picasso and Arp, with a commitment to ‘truth to materials’ and direct carving. The two central motifs of Moore’s mature career date from the 1930s; the reclining female figure, often divided into two or more constituent parts and suggestive of landscape forms (Four Piece Composition: Reclining Figure, 1934, Tate Gallery, London); and the pierced or hollowed form which explores the relationship between the interior and exterior space. An official war artist, Moore’s Shelter Sketchbooks heralded a more conservative approach to the figure (Madonna and Child, 1943–4, Church of St Matthew, Northampton). Success at the Venice Biennale in 1948 secured his international reputation and a worldwide market. Prestigious commissions followed, including the UNESCO headquarters in Paris (1956–8). Replacing stone carving with casting bronze editions, and using assistants, enabled Moore to increase production, with the majority of his 11,000 sculptures dating from the final half of his career.
   Within Britain, Moore’s audience grew through public commissions, open-air exhibitions in London parks, and John Read’s films for the BBC. His modernist yet recognizably figurative style became the acceptable face of modern British art. Although Moore’s popularity continued to grow, his artistic achievement is largely confined to his activities before the Second World War. Moore’s legacy continues through his charity. The Henry Moore Foundation (HMF) was established in 1977 ‘to advance the education of the public by the promotion of their appreciation of the fine arts and in particular the works of Henry Moore’. By the 1990s it was providing around £4 million per annum for the visual arts in Britain. Though Moore’s work is promoted by the HMF, its broader objectives are devolved to other bodies; grants fund exhibitions and research around Britain. In Yorkshire, two organizations promote and exhibit sculpture of all periods and nationalities: the Henry Moore Centre for the Study of Sculpture, Leeds, which holds a sculpture collection, library and archive, and the Henry Moore Sculpture Trust, which organizes exhibitions at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds and the Henry Moore Studio in Halifax.
   See also: Hepworth, Barbara; sculpture
   Further reading
    Bowness, A., Read, H. and Sylvester, D. (1988) Henry Moore: Complete Sculpture, catalogue raisonné in six volumes, 5th edn, London: Lund Humphries.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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