Birthday: July 30, 1898
Died At Age: 88
Sun Sign: Leo
Also Known As: Henry Spencer Moore
Born in: Castleford
Spouse/Ex-: Irina Radetsky
father: Mary Baker
mother: Raymond Spencer Moore
children: Mary Moore
Died on: August 31, 1986
place of death: Much Hadham
Founder/Co-Founder: Henry Moore Foundation
education: Castleford High School, Leeds College of Art and Design, Royal College of Art
awards: 1955 - Companion of Honor
1963 - Order of Merit in
- Federation of British Artists
One of the best known sculptors of the 20th century, Henry Spencer Moore was an artist who played a prominent role in introducing a particular form of modernism to the United Kingdom. He created abstract forms of bronze sculptures that usually depicted reclining human figures containing hollow spaces. He was also particularly fascinated by family related themes, especially the bond between mother and child which was often reflected in his artwork. Unlike several other artists who rise in prominence after their deaths, Moore reached the heights of fame while still alive and became exceptionally rich through his talents. He was fascinated by sculpting from a very early age when he learned about Michelangelo’s achievements. His art teacher recognized his potential and encouraged him. After a stint in the army, he studied at the Leeds School of Arts. Initially he followed the standard Victorian romantic style though soon he moved to direct carving in which the imperfections in the material become part of the work. He became a prominent member of the informal modern art movement during the 1930s and also dabbled a little with the surrealist movement. He worked as a war artist during the Second World War and produced pictures of the war victims. He amassed great wealth which he used to establish the Henry Moore foundation for promoting education and fine arts.
Childhood & Early Life
He was born as the seventh of eight children to Raymond Spencer Moore and Mary Baker. His father worked in a colliery and the family lived in poverty. Raymond wanted his children to have a decent education so that they could build better careers for themselves.
While at school he became aware about Michelangelo’s achievements and decided to become a sculptor. He later attended Castleford Grammar School where his headmaster noticed his interest in medieval sculpture.
He joined the army services when he was 18 and was injured in a gas attack in 1917. After recovering he became a physical training instructor.
In 1919, he became the first student of sculpture at the Leeds School of Art. After winning a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art in London in 1921 he expanded his knowledge of primitive art and sculpture.
He won a six-month traveling scholarship in 1924 during which he went to Northern Italy where he studied the great works of Michelangelo, Giotto di Bondone and Giovanni Pisano.
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He took up a teaching position at the Royal College of Art. This job required him to work only two days a week, so he had ample time to spend on his own work. His first public commission was ‘West Wind’ which he made during 1928-29.
He moved to Hampstead and joined a small colony of avant-garde artists which included Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Naum Gabo, Roland Penrose and Herbert Read. Interactions with other artists enriched his knowledge and influenced his artistic abilities.
After teaching at the Royal College for six years he was appointed as the Head of the Department of Sculpture at the Chelsea School of Art in 1932.
He joined Paul Nash’s modern art movement, ‘Unit One’ in 1933. The next year he visited Spain and studied the paintings at the cave of Altamira.
He was on the organizing committee of the International Surrealist Exhibition along with Nash. The exhibition was held in 1936.
He resigned from his post at the Chelsea School of Art at the outbreak of the Second World War. He was commissioned as a war artist and he produced poignant and powerful imageries of the war victims which added to his reputation.
The Church of St. Matthew gave him a commission to carve a Madonna and Child in 1943—this would prove to be the first in a series of family-group sculptures. By the late 1940s he was an international celebrity and was considered the face of British modernism.
During the 1950s, he received a number of significant commissions, one of the most significant one being a reclining figure for the UNESCO building in Paris in 1958.
His sculpture, ‘Nuclear Energy’ was unveiled on the 25th anniversary of the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction on the campus of the University of Chicago in December 1967.
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He became a very wealthy man by virtue of his artistic skills though he personally preferred to live frugally. He established the Henry Moore Foundation, a charity for promoting education and fine arts in 1972.
His sculpture ‘Nuclear Energy’ was unveiled at the site of the world’s first nuclear reactor, Chicago Pile-1 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the splitting of the atom in December 1967.
His famous sculpture ‘Draped Reclining Woman’ depicts a female figure in a reclining position with its weight supported by the right hand and right leg. It was made with a series of six castings and an artists cast.
Awards & Achievements
He won the International Sculpture Prize at the Venice Biennale in 1948.
He was awarded the Companion of Honour and the Order of Merit in 1955 and 1963 respectively.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Irina Radetsky, a fellow student at the Royal College in 1929. They had one daughter, Mary.
He is credited to have influenced several generations of sculptors including Sir Anthony Caro, Philip King, Isaac Witkin, and Robert Adams.
He died in 1986 at the age of 88.