Henry Moore  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Henry Spencer Moore (30 July 1898 – 31 August 1986) was an English sculptor and artist. He was best known for his semi-abstract monumental bronze sculptures which are located around the world as public works of art.

His forms are usually abstractions of the human figure, typically depicting mother-and-child or reclining figures. Moore's works are usually suggestive of the female body, apart from a phase in the 1950s when he sculpted family groups. His forms are generally pierced or contain hollow spaces. Many interpreters liken the undulating form of his reclining figures to the landscape and hills of his birthplace, Yorkshire.

Moore was born in Castleford, the son of a coal miner. He became well-known through his carved marble and larger-scale abstract cast bronze sculptures, and was instrumental in introducing a particular form of modernism to the United Kingdom. His ability in later life to fulfill large-scale commissions made him exceptionally wealthy. Yet he lived frugally and most of the money he earned went towards endowing the Henry Moore Foundation, which continues to support education and promotion of the arts.

Contents

Legacy

Influence

Dream City by Anthony Caro, (1996), rusting steel, at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Most sculptors who emerged during the height of Moore's fame, and in the aftermath of his death, found themselves cast in his shadow. By the late 1940s, Moore was a worldwide celebrity; he was the voice of British sculpture, and of British modernism in general. The next generation was constantly compared against him, and reacted by challenging his legacy, his "establishment" credentials and his position. At the 1952 Venice Biennale, eight new British sculptors produced their Geometry of Fear works as a direct contrast to the ideals behind Moore's idea of Endurance, Continuity.

Yet Moore had a direct influence on several generations of sculptors of both British and international reputation. Among the artists who have acknowledged Moore's importance to their work are Sir Anthony Caro, Phillip King and Isaac Witkin, all three having been assistants to Moore. Other artists whose work was influenced by him include Helaine Blumenfeld, Drago Marin Cherina, Lynn Chadwick, Eduardo Paolozzi, Bernard Meadows, Reg Butler, William Turnbull, Robert Adams, Kenneth Armitage, and Geoffrey Clarke.

Controversy

Moore's work has frequently been subject to vandalism, especially in Europe and America. His King and Queen (1952–1953) were decapitated in Dumfries in 1995 and daubed with blue paint in Leeds. His Recumbent Figure had her head chopped off on a wartime loan to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, his Spindle Piece (1968–69) was vandalised with metal chains in Houston, and his Draped Seated Woman 1957–58 at Von der Heydt Museum ended up tarred and feathered in the Ruhr.

In December 2005, the two ton Reclining Figure (1969–70) – insured for £3 million – was lifted by crane from the grounds of the Henry Moore Foundation on to a lorry and has not been recovered. Two men were jailed for a year in 2012 for stealing a sculpture called Sundial (1965) and the bronze plinth of another work, also from the foundation's estate. In October 2013 Standing Figure (1950), one of four Moore pieces in Glenkiln Sculpture Park, estimated to be worth £3 million, was stolen.

In 2012, the council of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets announced its plans to sell another version of Draped Seated Woman 1957–58, a 1.6-tonne bronze sculpture. Moore, a well-known socialist, had sold the sculpture at a fraction of its market value to the former London County Council on the understanding that it would be displayed in a public space and might enrich the lives of those living in a socially deprived area. Nicknamed Old Flo, it was installed on the Stifford council estate in 1962 but was vandalised and moved to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 1997. Tower Hamlets Council later had considered moving Draped Seated Woman to private land in Canary Wharf but instead chose to "explore options" for a sale. In response to the announcement an open letter was published in The Guardian, signed by Mary Moore, the artist's daughter, by Sir Nicholas Serota, Director of the Tate Gallery, by filmmaker Danny Boyle, and by artists including Jeremy Deller. The letter said that the sale "goes against the spirit of Henry Moore's original sale" of the work.

Popular interest

Today, the Henry Moore Foundation manages the artist's former home at Perry Green in Hertfordshire as a visitor destination, with 70 acres of sculpture grounds as well as his restored house and studios. It also runs the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds which organises exhibitions and research activities in international sculpture. Popular interest in Moore's work was perceived by some to have declined for a while in the UK but has been revived in recent times by exhibitions including Henry Moore at Tate Britain in 2010 and Moore at Kew and Hatfield in 2007 and 2011 respectively. The Foundation he endowed continues to play an essential role in promoting contemporary art in the United Kingdom and abroad through its grants and exhibitions programme.




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