Henry Moore OM, CH

Headless Animal

1960, cast 1964

Not on display

Henry Moore OM, CH 1898–1986
Object: 159 × 225 × 95 mm
Presented by the artist 1978

Display caption

When Moore presented this piece to Tate he explained that animals had always interested him as a subject for sculpture because they posed entirely different problems from the sculptor of the human figure. He liked them above all for their energy and vitality. In Headless Animal he was concerned primarily with the body and legs of the imaginary creature and felt the sculpture would look better without a head, focussing attention solely on the rhythmic form of the torso.

Gallery label, February 2010

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Catalogue entry


Headless Animal represents a four-legged creature whose head has been severed from its body with a slightly ragged cut through the neck (fig.1). The effect is disquieting, not least because the animal remains standing despite its apparent mutilation. Furthermore, while the stump-like remainder distinctly conveys the impression that a head once existed, the impossibility of identifying the body as belonging to any known species, whether wild or domestic, prompts speculation as to what kind of head this animal might once have possessed. The significance of its absence was only partially explained by comments Moore made to Tate curator Richard Calvocoressi in 1980: ‘the head presented no problem and he thought the sculpture would look better without one’.1
One result of the creature’s decapitation is that attention is thrown back onto the qualities of the body that remain. Certainly some aspects of the form evoke the denizens of pasture and barn yard. Seen from the rear, the creature’s ungainly stance, with rear legs splayed and front legs close together, suggests the unsteadiness of a calf, and both the tapering legs and the short tail, which wraps around the haunches to the right, enhance the illusion (fig.2). By contrast, the left side of the figure belies this naturalistic impression; it is here that the form is most distorted by odd and ungainly protrusions. These elements may derive from Moore’s use of found materials, which he often incorporated into his plaster models, and do not seem to correspond to anatomical features appropriate to this small creature. Instead they seem alien to it, like protrusions or growths.

Anne Wagner
June 2011


Richard Calvocoressi, ‘T.2283 Headless Animal 1960’, The Tate Gallery 1978–80: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1981, p.127.
David Sylvester, Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1968, p.127.
W.J. Strachan, Henry Moore: Animals, London 1983, p.134.

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