Henry Moore OM, CH



Henry Moore OM, CH 1898–1986
Cast concrete
Object: 200 × 180 × 130 mm
Transferred from the Victoria & Albert Museum 1983

Display caption

Moore studied the arts of various non-western traditions amongst which masks were not uncommon. During 1928-9 he made eight masks of his own, four in concrete and four carved in stone. In the other concrete masks the facial features are distorted in some way, and they display Moore’s interest in asymmetry. In this work there is little distortion of the features. It is a unique cast and was probably made from a clay original. This assumption arises from the forms of the eye sockets which look as though they were made by pressing a thumb into soft clay.

Gallery label, September 2016

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Catalogue entry


Mask is a small, wall-mounted sculpture of a schematic human face. Although its title declares it to be a mask, this sculpture was not designed to be worn. The sculpture is oval in shape, with the chin only slightly narrower than the forehead. The sides of the face are quite deep so that the sculpture projects away from the wall. The face has a very prominent brow, which overhangs the eyes and nose of the sculpture and when seen from the side seems to project upwards. The two eyes are equally spaced and are represented by two depressions. The upturned nose creates a ridgeline down the centre of the face and takes the form of a tetrahedron. Two triangulated nostrils indent the base of the nose. Like the rounded forehead, curved cheekbones contrast with the angular shape of the nose. The mouth is narrow and downturned. The upper lip has been denoted by an indentation while the lower lip is a slightly bulbous protrusion. There are no incised lines to indicate the outline of eyebrows, eyes or lips and when seen from the front the face is dominated by the smooth empty spaces of the cheeks. Ears have not been demarcated. Although seemingly balanced, on closer inspection the facial features of Mask have been presented asymmetrically; the right eye is slightly higher than the left, while the left eyebrow is slightly peaked. The right side of the mouth is turned down slightly.
Moore chose to cast Mask using concrete, a new material at the time which was generally reserved for use as a building material. Although he first used concrete as a material for sculpture in 1926, the majority of his concrete works, including Mask, date from 1929. Concrete, which is a mixture of cement, water and an aggregate of usually sand or fine grit, enabled Moore to create sculptures with a very particular surface texture. Small air bubbles trapped when the concrete is poured into a mould during the casting process create a smooth but pitted surface, and in the case of Mask, fine fragments of sand or grit provide flecks of white and yellow. In 1968 Moore recounted how he had first experimented with concrete by trying to build it up ‘on an armature ... then rubbing it down after it had set. This I had to do very quickly because the cement and the gritty aggregate mixed with it set so hard that all my tools used to wear out’.1 He then tried pouring his concrete into plaster or clay moulds to be cast, which proved more successful, and which may account for the depth of Mask. Writing in 1988 in the Tate’s illustrated catalogue of acquisitions, curator Judith Collins asserted that the original mould for Mask was probably made in clay based on an examination of the eye sockets ‘which look as though they were formed by pressing the thumb into soft clay’.2 She went on to note that ‘it would be difficult to produce this sort of complete yet spontaneous form by scraping it out in a plaster original’.3

Alice Correia
December 2012


Henry Moore cited in John Hedgecoe (ed.), Henry Moore, London 1968, p.58.
[Judith Collins], ‘Mask 1929’, The Tate Gallery 1984–86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982–84, London 1988, p.541.
Ibid., p.541.
Ibid., p.541.
Henry Moore, ‘A View on Sculpture’, Architectural Association Journal, May 1930, p.408; Henry Moore, ‘Statement’, in Herbert Read (ed.), Unit One: The Modern Movement in English Architecture, Painting and Sculpture, London 1933, p.29–30. Both texts are reprinted in Alan Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershot 2002, pp.187–8 and 191–3.
Terry Friedman, ‘Seated Figure’, in David Mitchinson (ed.), Celebrating Moore, London 2006, p.119.
Ibid., p.119.
Henry Moore, letter to Michael Sadler, 31 December 1933, Tate Archive TGA 8221/2/98.
Moore cited in Hedgecoe 1968, p.58.
A pointing machine is a measuring tool used by sculptors to make like-for-like copies of sculptures. The device comprises a collection of adjustable rods on an armature that are used to measure specific points on the surface of modelled sculpture. The tool measures the width, height and depth of these points from a chosen position and these dimensions are then used to accurately carve into a block of stone or wood. Each time a point (or measurement) is taken, a small hole is drilled into the corresponding block of stone to indicate the point to which the sculptor should carve. The first point of reference is the highest relief point; on a sculpture of a head this might be a protruding nose. This ensures that the sculptor does not carve away too much material. Carvings made with the use of a pointing machine are often pockmarked, where the point has been drilled fractionally too deep. For an example of a sculpture made with a pointing machine with visible point marks see Auguste Rodin, The Kiss 1901–4 (Tate N06228).
Ian Dejardin, ‘Catalogue’, in Henry Moore at Dulwich Picture Gallery, exhibition catalogue, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London 2004, p.37.
For example see Herbert Read, Henry Moore: A Study of his Life and Work, London 1965, p.72; Henry Moore: Early Carvings 1920–1940, exhibition catalogue, Leeds City Art Galleries, Leeds 1982, p.62; Andrew Causey, The Drawings of Henry Moore, London 2010, p.34. In the 2010 Moore exhibition held at Tate Britain, Mask was displayed in the room titled ‘World Cultures’; see http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/henry-moore-0/henry-moore-room-guide/henry-moore-room-guide-room-1, accessed 22 November 2012. The term pre-Coloumbian denotes the period of history preceeding Christopher Columbus’s voyages to South America in 1492 and European contact with and influence on American indigenous cultures and civilisations.
Alan Wilkinson, The Drawings of Henry Moore, London 1977, p.150.
Barbara Braun, Pre-Columbian Art and the Post-Columbian World, New York 2000, p.96.
For reports on these excavations see Anon., ‘Ruins in British Honduras’, Times, 12 January 1926, p.11, and Anon., ‘More Mayan Ruins Discovered’, Times, 10 February 1926, p.13.
Roger Fry, Vision and Design, London 1920, p.73.
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.
Alfred P. Maudslay specialised in the study of ancient Mayan inscriptions and his collection of Mayan sculptures had been kept in the basement of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, until ethnographic curator Thomas Joyce transferred it to the British Museum and dedicated a room in the museum for its display. See Braun 2000, p.95.
Henry Moore, ‘Mexican Sculpture’, c.1925–6, Henry Moore Foundation Archive, published in Wilkinson 2002, p.97.
Wilkinson 2002, p.97.
Alan Wilkinson, Henry Moore Remembered: The Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Toronto 1987, p.68.
Adolphe Basler and Ernest Brummer, L’Art précolombien, Paris 1928.
Fry 1920, p.67.
Henry Moore, ‘Foreword’, in Primitive African Sculpture, exhibition catalogue, Lefevre Galleries, London 1933, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.99.
Henry Moore, Henry Moore at the British Museum, London 1981, p.101.
Moore cited in Hedgecoe 1968, p.56.
John Russell, Henry Moore, London 1968, p.49.
Anon., ‘Epstein’s protégé’, Sheffield Independent, 11 April 1931, p.6.
Anon., ‘Genesis Left Stone Cold’, Star, 11 April 1931, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
Anon., ‘Cult of Ugliness Triumphant’, Morning Post, 11 April 1931, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
Jacob Epstein, ‘A Note on the Sculpture of Henry Moore’, Catalogue of an Exhibition of Sculpture and Drawings by Henry Moore, Leicester Galleries, London 1931, p.6.
See Victoria and Albert Museum Archive RP–49–3191. The Alumni Directory of Yale University published in 1920 lists Henry Bergen among its graduates of 1895. Bergen lived at 55 Sutton Court, Chiswick, London, between 1924 and 1936, and at 66 Sutton Court from 1937 to 1949.
See Henry Bergen (ed.), John Lydgate: Lydgate's Fall of Princes, 4 vols., Oxford 1924–7.
Henry Bergen, letter to Bernard Leach, Bernard Leach Archive, Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, Surrey, item LA.2409, http://www.vads.ac.uk/large.php?uid=66164&sos=10, accessed 30 July 2012.
Bernard Leach, letter to Henry Moore, 27 May 1975, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
See Hettie Wiles, letter to Bernard Leach, Bernard Leach Archive, Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, Surrey, no.12090, in which Wiles notes Bergen’s decision to ‘give all his pots away’. http://www.csc.ucreative.ac.uk/media/pdf/o/p/Bernard_Leach_Catalogue_Volume_II.pdf, accessed 30 July 2012. On 15–16 July 1948 Hodgsons auction house in London held a sale of Bergen’s book collection (see auction notice in the Times, 12 July 1948, p.10) and the same year he gave his large collection of studio pottery, including examples of his own work, to the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent. See http://www.stokemuseums.org.uk/collections/browse_collections/ceramics/studio_pottery/henry_bergen?tab=info, accessed 19 December 2012.
Victoria and Albert Museum, Circulation Department, Travelling Exhibitions for Loan to Museums, Art Galleries and Libraries, London 1953, p.13, V&A Archive MA/17/2/4

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