Henry Moore OM, CH



Not on display

Henry Moore OM, CH 1898–1986
Ancaster stone
Overall dims: 865 × 600 × 433mm (including base and wooden board)
Purchased 1952

Display caption

From the mid-1920s Moore had advocated the abolition of the 'Greek ideal' in sculpture in favour of non-European sources, which he felt had much greater vitality. This work reveals his fascination with the Mesopotamian sculptures in the British Museum, especially solemn standing figures with clasped hands. He reviewed a book on Mesopotamian art for 'The Listener' in June 1935. Around 1931-2 Moore also turned his attention to the study of natural forms, such as shells, bones and pebbles. He then brought together his studies in natural forms with his admiration for non-European 'primitive' sculpture and began to introduce a rhythmic and non-naturalistic approach to the depiction of the human figure.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry


Girl is a stone sculpture of a naked adolescent girl shown from her head to her hips, fixed on top of a cuboid plinth made from limestone. Her head is oval, with a prominent jutting chin. The nose has been carved in the shape of a tetrahedron, with the bridge tapering upwards and curving around either side of the face to delineate the eye brows. Circular nostrils have been drilled into the lower part of the nose. The eyes are slightly convex areas of stone that have been incised with two circles outlining the area of the iris and two drilled circles denote the pupils. The mouth is small and the lips appear to be pursed together, with the upper lip forming a stark ‘m’ shape, while the lower lip is straight. The eyes, nose and mouth appear small in comparison to the size of the head and are concentrated in the middle of the face.
Moore accentuated the incised or drilled details including the eyes and nostrils by adding a dark material, possibly a pigmented wax, or by rubbing a burnt match over these areas. These incisions appeared much more prominent in early black and white photographs of the sculpture. Strands of hair are denoted by incised lines which also indicate the girl’s hairline. One of the strands of hair also forms the outline of the right ear for which a ‘c’ shaped hollow denotes the ear canal. These rounded shapes are echoed in a series of three globular shapes suggesting buns of hair. A skein of hair has been carved in relief and runs down the girl’s neck. When seen from her left side a rectangular shape projects from the side of her skull. It is unclear what this shape is meant to denote.
The torso is an elongated tubular column, which leans slightly to the right and tapers in slightly just above the hips. The breast bone curves forwards from the thick neck, and the breasts are presented as two small domes positioned lopsidedly on the girl’s otherwise flat chest. Nipples have been denoted by two small drilled indentations. She has broad shoulders that exceed the width of her hips, making the sculpture appear top heavy; seen from the front the shoulders are presented on a diagonal with the proper left shoulder raised slightly, while the right is lower. The sculpture’s muscular shoulders lead to thinner upper arms. Although carved from a single block of limestone, a gap between the upper arms and the torso has been carved while the forearms and hands are attached to the main body. The hands are positioned in front of the girl’s belly and are loosely clenched, with the thumb of her left hand hooked between the small and ring fingers of the right hand (fig.1).

Alice Correia
December 2012


Anon., ‘Epstein’s protégé’, Sheffield Independent, 11 April 1931, p.6.
Henry Moore cited in Gemma Levine, With Henry Moore: The Artist at Work, London 1978, p.146.
See Roger Berthoud, The Life of Henry Moore, 1987, revised edn, London 2003, pp.121–2.
Although Moore resigned from his post at the Royal College of Art in January 1931 there is some uncertainty whether he worked until the end of his contract at the end of the summer term. See Berthoud 2003, p.112.
Henry Moore, ‘A View on Sculpture’, Architectural Association Journal, May 1930, p.408, reprinted in Alan Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, London 2002, p.187.
Ibid., p.187.
Herbert Read, ‘A Nest of Gentle Artists’, Apollo, September 1962, pp.536–40.
Will Grohmann, The Art of Henry Moore, London 1960, pp.28–9.
Susan Compton (ed.), Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy of Arts, London 1988, p.178.
Ibid., p.178
R.H. Wilenski, The Meaning of Modern Sculpture, London 1932, p.99. Original italics.
Ibid, p.136.
Ibid., p.136.
Ibid., p.136.
Christopher Green, ‘Expanding the Canon: Roger Fry’s Evaluations of the “Civilized” and the “Savage”’, in Christopher Green (ed.), Art Made Modern: Roger Fry's Vision of Art, exhibition catalogue, Courtauld Institute Galleries, London 1999, p.126.
Henry Moore cited in James Johnson Sweeny, ‘Henry Moore’, Partisan Review, March–April 1947, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.45.
See Alice Correia, ‘Mask ?1928 by Henry Moore OM, CH’, catalogue entry, December 2012, in, Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, 2015, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research/content/1147467?project=4, accessed 21 April 2015 and Alice Correia, ‘Mask 1929 by Henry Moore OM, CH’, catalogue entry, December 2012, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, 2015, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research/content/1149252?project=4, accessed 21 April 2015.
Henry Moore, ‘Foreword’, in Primitive African Sculpture, exhibition catalogue, Lefevre Galleries, London 1933, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.99.
Henry Moore, ‘On Carving’, New English Weekly, 5 May 1932, pp.65–6, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.190.
Anne Middleton Wagner, Mother Stone: The Vitality of Modern British Sculpture, New Haven and London 2005, p.20.
See Charles Harrison, English Art and Modernism, 1981, revised edn, New Haven and London 1994, p.229; Sophie Bowness, ‘Modernist Stone Carving in England and “The Big View of Sculpture”’ in Carving Mountains: Modern Stone Sculpture in England 1907–37, exhibition catalogue, Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge 1998, p.35; Jon Wood, ‘Gods, Graves and Sculptors: Gudea, Sumerian Sculpture and the Avant-Garde, c.1930–1935’, Sculpture Journal, no.10, 2003, pp.67–82.
Henry Moore, ‘Mesopotamian Art’, in Lucienne Laroche, The Middle East, London 1974, pp.7–8, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.109.
See Wood 2003 for an in-depth discussion of Moore’s access to Sumerian sculpture.
G. Contenau, ‘L’art sumérian: les conventions de la statuaire’, Documents, vol.1, no.1, 1930, pp.1–8. At the back of the magazine abbreviated versions of each essay were provided in English. For digital facsimiles of vols.1 and 2 of Documents see http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k32951f.image, accessed 26 July 2012. Moore was an avid reader and regularly studied contemporary art periodicals and may well have been aware of Contenau’s essay.
Henry Moore, ‘Mesopotamian Art’, Listener, 5 June 1935, pp.944–6, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.101. Moore’s essay was ostensibly a review of art critic Christian Zervos’s new book L’Art de la Mésopotamie (1935).
Ibid., p.101.
Ibid., p.101.
Henry Moore, The Artist’s Hand, Much Hadham 1980, cited in Anita Feldman and Malcolm Woodward, Henry Moore: Plasters, London 2011, p.66.
Moore 1935, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.101.
Ibid., p.101.
David Sylvester, ‘The Evolution of Henry Moore’s Sculpture: I’, Burlington Magazine, vol.90, no.543, June 1948, p.159.
Ibid., p.159.
Ibid., p.159.
Clive Branson, letter to Whitechapel Art Gallery, 9 May 1932, Whitechapel Gallery Archive.
See Tate Gallery Board Meeting Minutes, January 1933–December 1935, Tate Public Records 72 72/11.
Lynda Morris and Robert Radford, AIA: Artists International Association 1933–1953, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford 1983, p.2.
See Portrait of a Worker c.1930 (Tate T11787), Selling the 'Daily Worker' Outside Projectile Engineering Works 1937 (Tate T11788); Bombed Women and Searchlights 1940 (Tate T11789); Blitz: Plane Flying 1940 (Tate T11790); and Still Life 1940 (Tate T12021).
Bryan Robertson, letter to John Rothenstein, 12 June 1952, Whitechapel Gallery Archive.
Maurice Lambert, letter to Humphrey Brooke (Royal Academy Secretary), 27 June 1952, Royal Academy of Arts Archive.
James Woodford, letter to Humphrey Brooke, 28 June 1952, Royal Academy of Arts Archive.

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