Henry Moore OM, CH

Upright Form: Knife Edge


On display at Tate Britain

Henry Moore OM, CH 1898–1986
Overall: 660 x 585 x 410 mm
Presented by the artist 1970

Display caption

This work was carved at Forte di Marmi near Quercetta in Italy where Moore had a house and studio. As was his usual practice he had wandered around the Forte di Marmi stockyard looking at stones and was attracted by a piece of Portugese 'Rosa Aurora'. Moore said that the shape of the sculpture can be summarised as knife-edge separating an upward turning (a hand open to the sky) from a downward turning (a leg seeking the earth) movement. The whole form is contained, with the minimum of carving, in the square shape of the original stone turned onto its corner, the knife-edge defining the diagonal. Moore presented this work to the Tate Gallery in memory of his friend, the poet and art critic Sir Herbert Read.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry


Upright Form: Knife Edge is an abstract sculpture carved from Portuguese Rosa Aurora marble, which is pale pink in colour. The sculpture is mounted on a square base of the same material, from which it rises vertically (fig.1). A sharp pointed central spine extends upwards and outwards from the elliptical footprint at the bottom before curving inwards to a fine point at the top. Projecting laterally from either side of this vertical axis are two spurs. One appears to rise outwards from near the base and has a rounded, diagonal underside and an almost horizontal upper surface. The spur on the other side is more cylindrical in form and has an upper side that points at a downward diagonal from the apex and a shorter, near-horizontal underside. While the upwards pointing spur terminates in a curved point, the other appears truncated and ends abruptly in a flat oval face. The sculpture is not positioned centrally on the base and both of the extending spurs project beyond the width of the base below.
The sculpture slots onto a metal pole that runs up through the base. This rod is bent slightly so the sculpture does not sit flush on the base (fig.2). The front edge is slightly raised and there are circular scratches on the upper surface of the base. These suggest that the sculpture has swivelled or rotated, abrading the surface beneath.

Making Upright Form: Knife Edge

Before carving this sculpture in marble Moore first modelled its design in white clay. The small-scale maquette for Upright Form: Knife Edge was made in 1966 in the maquette studio on the grounds of his home, Hoglands, in Perry Green, Hertfordshire, and remains in the collection of the Henry Moore Foundation (fig.3). This studio was lined with shelves displaying Moore’s ever growing collection of found bones, shells and flint stones, the shapes of which often served as starting points for Moore’s formal experiments in three dimensions.

Oppositional forces

In memory of Herbert Read

Alice Correia
March 2014


See [Michael Compton], ‘Henry Moore, Upright Form (Knife Edge) 1966’, in The Tate Gallery 1968–70, London 1970, p.94. The critic John Russell noted in 1968 that at Henraux, ‘an abundance of fine stone is constantly to hand, and Henraux’s often import exotic rarities in the way of business’. See John Russell, Henry Moore, London 1968, p.209.
See [Compton] 1970, p.95.
See Lot 497, Sale 1901, Impressionist And Modern Art Day Sale, Christie’s, New York, 7 November 2007, http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/LotDetailsPrintable.aspx?intObjectID=4984010, accessed 18 March 2014.
David Sylvester, Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1968, pp.127–8.
Ibid., p.128.
Henry Moore cited in ibid., p.128.
Henry Moore, ‘Statement for Unit One’, in Herbert Read (ed.), Unit One: The Modern Movement in English Architecture, Painting and Sculpture, London 1934, pp.29–30, reprinted in Alan Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershot 2002, pp.191–2.
Herbert Read, letter to Henry Moore, 4 January 1934, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
See [Compton] 1970, p.95.
Other donated works were Barbara Hepworth’s Figure (Nyanga) 1959–60 (Tate T01112), Naum Gabo’s Linear Construction No.2 1970–1 (Tate T01105), and Ben Nicholson’s March 63 (artemission) 1963 (Tate T01118).
See ‘Note on the Henry Moore Gift’, 1978, Tate Public Records TG 4/6/10/4.
Norman Reid, letter to Mary Danowski, 31 August 1978, Tate Public Records TG 4/6/10/4.

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