Henry Moore OM, CH

Large Totem Head

1968, cast date unknown

Not on display

Henry Moore OM, CH 1898–1986
Object: 2457 × 1340 × 1257 mm
Presented by the artist 1978

Catalogue entry


Large Totem Head is an upright bronze sculpture with a smooth curved back and a concave front bisected down the centre by a vertical column or spine (fig.1). This feature accentuates the symmetrical qualities of the sculpture, which give it the appearance of an organic specimen, like a fruit sliced open to reveal its core. Seen from the rear the sculpture appears to take the form of a curved ovoid that expands outwards from the base before contracting inwards towards the top (fig.2). Both the base and the top of the sculpture are flat, as though their tips have been sliced off. From the side it is evident that the sculpture leans forward, creating the impression that it is top heavy (fig.3).

From plaster to bronze

Large Totem Head is an enlarged version of a smaller sculpture called Head: Boat Form, which Moore made in 1963 (fig.4). This earlier work is the same shape as Large Totem Head, and features the same central spine and hollowed cavity, but is positioned horizontally, resting on the bulge of its back. In this position it is easy to identify the sculpture as a small rowing boat or dinghy, as suggested by its title. It is unclear why Moore decided in 1968 to revisit and enlarge this earlier sculpture, although at this stage in his career it was not uncommon for him to revise earlier works; in 1968 Moore also enlarged Large Slow Form (Tate T02290) from a small sculpture made in 1962. Moore felt justified to enlarge smaller works because he believed that ‘A small sculpture only three or four inches big can have a monumental scale ... When the work has this monumentality about it, then you can enlarge it almost to any size you like, and it will be alright; it will be correct’.1

Sources and contexts

The Henry Moore Gift

Alice Correia
September 2013


Henry Moore cited in Warren Forma, Five British Sculptors: Work and Talk, New York 1964, pp.67, 73, reprinted in Alan Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershot 2002, p.207.
Henry Moore cited in Gemma Levine, With Henry Moore: The Artist at Work, London 1978, p.123.
John Read in Henry Moore: One Yorkshireman Looks at His World, dir. by John Read, television programme, broadcast BBC 2, 11 November 1967, http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/henrymoore/8807.shtml, accessed 3 November 2013.
Henry Moore in ‘Henry Moore Talking to David Sylvester’, 7 June 1963, transcript of Third Programme, broadcast BBC Radio, 14 July 1963, p.18, Tate Archive TGA 200816. (An edited version of this interview was published in the Listener, 29 August 1963, pp.305–7.)
Julie Summers, ‘Fragment of Maquette for King and Queen’, in Claude Allemand-Cosneau, Manfred Fath and David Mitchinson (eds.), Henry Moore From the Inside Out: Plasters, Carvings and Drawings, Munich 1996, p.126. Between 1967 and 1968, when the enlargement process was probably undertaken, Moore’s assistants included Colin Barker, John Farnham, Ramy Shuklinsky, Richard Wentworth and Yeheskiel Yardini.
Henry Moore, letter to Heinz Ohff, 8 March 1967, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
‘Henry Moore Talking to David Sylvester’, 7 June 1963, pp.3–4, Tate Archive TGA 200816.
Robert Melville, Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings 1921–69, London 1970, p.19.
Moore was an avid reader of surrealist periodicals and during the 1930s his work was reproduced in Minotaure and the International Surrealist Bulletin. See Julia Kelly, ‘The Unfamiliar Figure: Henry Moore in French Periodicals of the 1930s’, in Jane Beckett and Fiona Russell (eds.), Henry Moore: Critical Essays, Aldershot 2003, pp.43–65.
Christa Lichtenstern, ‘Henry Moore and Surrealism’, Burlington Magazine, vol.123, no. 944, November 1981, p.657.
Henry Moore, ‘On Carving’, New English Weekly, 5 May 1932, pp.65–6, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.190.
Christa Lichtenstern, ‘Large Totem Head’, in David Mitchinson (ed.), Celebrating Moore: Works from the Collection of the Henry Moore Foundation, London 2006, p.287.
Ibid., p.288.
Richard Calvocoressi, ‘T.2302 Large Totem Head’ in The Tate Gallery 1978–80: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1981, p.141.
See ‘Note on the Henry Moore Gift’, 1978, Tate Public Records TG 4/6/10/4.
These figures are based on those listed in a memo in the exhibition’s records; see Tate Public Records TG 92/344/2.
Norman Reid, letter to Mary Danowski, 31 August 1978, Tate Public Records TG 4/6/10/4.
See Judith Jeffries, letter to Joanna Drew, 3 October 1978, Tate Public Records TG 4/9/400/1.

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