Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity

ISBN 978-1-84976-391-2


Alice Correia

Henry Spencer Moore was born on 30 July 1898 at 30 Roundhill Road in Castleford, Yorkshire (fig.1). The son of Raymond Spencer Moore (1848–1922) and his wife Mary Moore (neé Baker; 1858–1944), Henry Moore was the seventh of eight children. His father was the grandson of an Irish migrant who, having started his working life on a farm, aged nine, moved to Castleford to work in the local coal mining industry. Moore’s father was self-educated and passed the examinations to become a qualified mine manager. His father was determined that his children would complete their education, and after attending infant and elementary schools in his hometown, Moore entered Castleford Secondary School, having passed the entrance exam on his third attempt.
Castlesford, Yorkshire c.1900
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Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive

Moore excelled at art and sports at school and when he was eighteen he expressed a desire to sit the examinations for a scholarship to the local art college. Moore’s artistic ambitions had been encouraged by one of his teachers, Miss Alice Gostick, who was a member of the Art Teachers’ Guild. The Guild advocated a progressive curriculum and thanks to Miss Gostick, Moore was exposed to art magazines such as the Studio. This magazine often featured the work of modern European artists, and contemporary developments in art were freely discussed between the teacher and her students. Miss Gostick also ran evening pottery classes for both students and parents. Although Moore’s father was ambitious for his children, he disapproved of Moore’s desire to attend art school and insisted that Moore should train as a teacher, like his older brother and sister, in order to secure himself a living; if after qualifying as a teacher his son still wanted to become an artist he was free to do so. In 1915 Moore graduated from Castleford Secondary School with distinction in art and in July of that year became a student teacher at Temple Street Elementary School where he had studied as a child.
Moore shortly after he joined the army as a private in 1917, aged eighteen
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Moore’s early experiences as a trainee teacher were miserable. War had broken out in 1914 and some of the teaching staff had left to serve in the forces. As a result Moore was required at the school almost full-time. Nonetheless his artistic interests, encouraged by Miss Gostick, sustained him. In February 1917, aged eighteen-and-a-half, Moore enlisted and joined the Civil Service Rifles, the 15th Battalion The London Regiment (fig.2). Compulsory conscription for men aged eighteen to forty-one had been introduced in January 1916 and his father had advised that it was better for Moore to volunteer and join a regiment of his own choice rather than wait and be assigned a post.
After a short period of training Moore was dispatched to the front in France in the summer of 1917. In November and December 1917 Moore’s battalion took part in the Battle of Cambrai, in which British and allied troops penetrated the German Hindenburg line in northern France by deploying large numbers of tanks. The German counterattack used aeroplanes to bomb and gas British troops. A witness later recalled:
The gas in Bourlon Wood hung in the trees and bushes so thickly that all ranks were compelled to wear their respirators continuously if they were to escape the effects of the gas. But men cannot dig for long without removing them, and it was necessary to dig trenches to get away from the persistent shell fire. Throughout November 30th there was, therefore, a steady stream of gassed and wounded men coming thought the regimental aid posts. Their clothes were full of gas.1
Henry Moore on recuperation leave, spring 1918
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Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
According to Moore’s biographer Donald Hall, ‘of the four hundred men in his regiment, Moore was one of fifty-two’ survivors of the attacks,2 and of those who survived over half, including Moore, suffered from gas poisoning, which affected their throats and lungs. Moore recuperated in hospital in Cardiff (fig.3) and when fit enough re-trained as an army instructor, and was subsequently in charge of bayonet training for new recruits. Moore returned to France in November 1918, shortly after Armistice was signed and remained there until February 1919.
Moore was later to recall of his short army career that ‘it was in those years that I broke finally away from parental domination which had been very strong’.3 Although he resumed his teaching post at Temple Street Elementary School in March 1919, with the assistance of Miss Gostick, he applied for, and received, an ex-serviceman’s grant to attend Leeds School of Art.
Miss Gostick's pottery class, with Miss Gostick seated on the far left looking at a bowl and Moore seated at her feet painting a jug, December 1919
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Moore took up his place at Leeds School of Art in September 1919. Students were accepted to the art school from the age of fifteen or sixteen and at the age of twenty-one, Moore, now a war veteran, was older than many of his fellow classmates. The school followed a traditional academic curriculum, and Moore later recalled, ‘I was very lucky not to have gone to art school until I knew better than to believe what the teachers said’.4 During his first year at Leeds Moore attended drawing classes and lectures in art history, although he made it known that he had aspirations to become a sculptor. To supplement his training at the college he continued to attend Miss Gostick’s pottery classes, bringing along his new friend, Raymond Coxon (fig.4). Moore met the painter Raymond Coxon on his first day at college and the two became life-long friends. Coxon remembered:
Harry and I met in the lavatory. We both had brand new serge suits on: it was a sort of mark of respectibility. I thought his eyes had a twinkle, and he was cheerful and had a nice taste for a smutty story. There was a gaiety about us, but it didn’t interfere with our will to get a lot done quickly. We were aiming at Michelangelo and Titian, nothing less. We were trying to make up for the lost time in the army. We were young, and we were thankful to God Almighty that we had survived.5
Although Moore found the teaching at Leeds uninspired, he and his fellow students were exposed to contemporary European art thanks to the activities of Michael Sadler, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Leeds from 1911 to 1922. Having worked at the Department of Education in London, Sadler took up the post of Vice Chancellor in Leeds in 1911, and brought with him a belief in the necessity of a broad education and the centrality of the arts in everyday life. At Leeds Sadler was active in the University’s arts, drama and music societies, and he established a programme of public lectures on the arts. In addition to giving lectures on artists such as Cézanne, Gauguin and van Gogh, he invited a range of guest speakers including the painter and critic Roger Fry.
Sadler was passionate about modern art and his eclectic art collection contained works by Cézanne, Gauguin, and the German Expressionists. In 1912 he had visited Wassily Kandinsky and had bought examples of his work.6 As Hilary Daiper, former Keeper of the University of Leeds art collection noted, Sadler’s ‘activities placed him at the centre of creative experiment in Leeds’.7 Significantly, Sadler made his private art collection available as much as possible, frequently lending and showing items to artists and students in the city. He also invited talented students, including Moore, to view his collection in his home and it was here that Moore saw Sadler’s painting by Gauguin. In 1973 he recalled, ‘Sadler had a Gauguin, a wonderful Gauguin, and a few other things. It was the Gauguin and a few ones like that which impressed me most. It opened up a world that was other than the Victorian, academic, art-school world’.8 Sadler later became one of Moore’s earliest patrons, buying works in the late 1920s.
Raymond Coxon and Henry Moore standing in front of clay figures they had made, Leeds School of Art, summer 1921
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Moore claimed that it was not until his second year at Leeds (1920–1) that he started training in sculpture, following the appointment of Reginald Thomas Cotterill as the first Head of the Sculpture and Modelling Department.9 He also said that it was at his request that Cotterill was employed, although records show that the latter started at the college in 1919.10 Although Moore was officially the sole student in the newly established sculpture school, classes were open to other students, and it is evident from a surviving photograph that Coxon also undertook sculpture while at Leeds (fig.5). Although the teaching focused on modelling in clay, Cotterill taught all aspects of sculpture; the statement made by Moore’s biographer Roger Berhoud that ‘carving was not taught’ is slightly misleading, as wood carving, distinct from stone carving, was indeed taught .11 Moore excelled and by the end of his second year at Leeds was awarded a scholarship to go to the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London.
Moore moved to London in the autumn of 1921 and his letters to his friends in Leeds and Miss Gostick reveal that he embraced the new opportunities to see and learn about art. He quickly established a routine of weekly visits to the British Museum and the Tate Gallery, and he regularly visited other museums including the Victoria and Albert, Science Museum and the Wallace Collection. On 29 October 1921 Moore wrote to his Leeds friend and fellow sculptor Jocelyn Horner, ‘when I’m not at College I’m hockeying or Tate-ing or Museuming’.12 Moore later recalled:
I was in a dream of excitement. When I rode on the open top bus I felt I was travelling in Heaven almost, and that the bus was floating in the air. And it was Heaven all over again in the evening, in the little room that I had in Sydney Street. It was a dreadful room, the most horrible little room that you can imagine, and the landlady gave me the most awful finnan haddock for breakfast every morning, but at night I had my books, and the coffee stall on the Embankment if I wanted to go out to eat, and I knew that not far away I had the National Gallery and the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert with the reference library where I could get at any book I wanted. I could learn about all the sculptures that had ever been made in the world. With the £90 a year that I had in scholarships I was one of the real rich students at the College and I had no worries or problems at all except purely and simply my own development as a sculptor.13
Moore’s visits to London’s museums fuelled his appreciation for non-Western art. However, as Berthoud explained, ‘his taste for the primitive was in direct conflict with what he was being taught at the Royal College’.14 When Moore began the course, academic teaching of sculpture focused almost entirely on figuration, and was concerned above all with the styles and techniques of ancient Greek and Roman statuary and Italian Renaissance art. Under the leadership of Professor Francis Derwent Wood (1871–1926), a member of the Royal Academy, students in the RCA sculpture department were taught how to copy classical sculptures by accurately modelling replicas in clay or plaster before using a pointing machine to create a stone copy.15 Students were required to copy historical sculptures, working from plaster casts from the college’s collection, or from originals housed in London’s museums. In this way they were trained not only in traditional sculpting techniques but also in the styles and subjects of great art of the past.16 In order to balance his own interests with the demands of his course Moore led something of a double life:
I had a double goal, or double occupation: drawing and modelling from life in term-time and daytime. And the rest of the time trying to develop in pure sculptural terms – which for me, at that time, was a very different thing from the Renaissance tradition ... When I was a student direct carving, as an occupation and as a sculptor’s natural way of producing things, was simply unheard of in academic circles ... I liked the different mental approach involved – the fact that you begin with the block and have to find the sculpture that’s inside it.17
Raymond Coxon had also been awarded a scholarship to attend the Royal College and after the first term he and Moore lived together in a number of different lodgings in west London. In early 1922 Moore and Coxon sought permission from the Principal of the RCA, William Rothenstein, to go to Paris during Whitsun week in June 1922,18 with the express intention of studying Cézanne’s work.19 Rothenstein, who had only been appointed to the post of Principal in autumn 1920, had an appreciation for new developments in art, agreed to the trip. While in Paris Moore and Coxon visited Auguste Pellerin’s collection of paintings, which included Cézanne’s The Large Bathers 1900–6 (Philadelphia Museum of Art). Moore later recalled: ‘Cézanne’s figures had a monumentality about them I liked. In his Bathers, the figures were very sculptural in the sense of being big blocks and not a lot of surface detail about them. They are indeed monumental’.20
Figure made by Henry Moore while living in Acfold Road, London, 1922
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Although no records confirm what else they may have seen in Paris, it is possible that the now-lost plaster dancing figure created by Moore while living with Coxon in Acfold Road, was executed after seeing contemporary works by artists such as Alexander Archipenko, Ossip Zadkine or Henri Laurens (fig.6). That Moore made this work in his home, rather than his studio space at college, demonstrates how he kept his experiments with modern styles separate from his college work.
Moore at work in his Hammersmith studio, c.1925–6
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Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
In 1924 Moore and Coxon moved into their first proper studio at 3 Grove Studios, Adie Road, Hammersmith (fig.7).21 That summer Moore gained his diploma from the Royal College of Art and Professor Wood wrote in his final report that Moore ‘has shown great improvement in all branches, hard-working, his life work shows promise, altogether a good student’.22 On his graduation Moore was also awarded a six-month travelling scholarship. Although he had planned to take up the award that autumn, he was simultaneously offered the post of Assistant in the Sculpture Department at the Royal College. The post paid £240 a year for teaching two days a week and was offered with a seven year contract. Moore accepted the post and embraced life as an independent sculptor. Initially Moore enjoyed the challenges of teaching. In 1966 he recalled:
The first two or three years of teaching your own subject is as much a way of learning for the teachers as for the students themselves. I remember I used to be very surprised quite often at the things I discovered while teaching, the actual sentences, the words ... and after a few years of teaching then I think it isn’t a very good thing, because there comes a stage when you have to repeat things that you think are fundamental in the training of sculpture. They become deadening things.23
Henry Moore with fellow students, including the painter Eric Ravillious, in Rome, 1925
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Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
It was not until February 1925 that Moore was able to take up the travel scholarship awarded to him in 1924, travelling to Italy via Paris (fig.8). Moore had wanted to spend the entirety of this time abroad in Paris and had grappled with the College administration to allow him to do so. However, the scholarship had been designed to allow students to study the arts of Renaissance Italy, and Moore had to go to Italy. While there Moore was impressed by the wall paintings of Giotto, Orcagna, Lorenzettii, Taddeo Gaddi and Masaccio. As well as studying works by these artists in Genoa, Pisa, Assisi and Padua, he visited Michelangelo’s Sistine Chaple ceiling in Rome. Faced with the artistic riches of Italy Moore suffered a crisis of confidence and returned home early. Later in life acknowledged that his time there in 1925 was the closest he came to having a nervous breakdown.24 In 1947 Moore reflected on this period of his life:
For about six months after my return I was never more miserable in my life. Six months exposure to the master works of European art which I saw on my trip had stirred up a violent conflict with my previous ideals. I couldn’t seem to shake off the new impressions, or make use of them without denying all that I had devoutly believed in before. I found myself helpless and unable to work. Then gradually I began to find my way out of my quandary in the direction of my earlier interests. I came back to ancient Mexican art in the British Museum.25
Henry Moore with Raymond Coxon and Edna (Gin) Ginesi in the garden of Musée Cluny, Paris, 1926 or 1927
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The years 1925–8 were a period of consolidation for Moore. He spent his time teaching and developing his carving style. Following the example of the generation of sculptors who had made their name before the war, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (1891–1915), Eric Gill (1882–1940) and Jacob Epstein (1880–1959), Moore worked directly on the stone, without preparatory models, attempting to respond to the stone’s particular physical properties. Out of term-time Moore and his friends made regular trips to Paris in order to study recent developments in art (fig.9), or he spent his holidays with his family, who had moved to Norfolk in July 1922. In a letter dated 26 August 1927 Moore described an ordinary day with his mother and sister during the summer holiday:
This is an account of today + yesterday. Up about 9 – begin carving about 10 carve for an hour then stretch my legs by getting a pear or two off the pear tree then to it again till 12.30 – lunch + read the Daily News till 2 – carve again till 4 then tea after which a game of croquet! Followed by a walk – another meal and then read and talk till bedtime. My aim now is to increase the hours of carving but cutting down the croquet and the paper reading ... I’m afraid this is going to be my worst Summer Holiday output for about 5 years ... The piece of stone I’m starting on is blamed hard – Its almost breaking my heart. For the last five months working in soft stone has made me like it myself – A bit of hard stuff causes me [to] take frequent rests + to sweat vulgarly.26
1928 was a significant year for Henry Moore. In January his first solo exhibition opened at the Warren Gallery, London, with forty-two sculptures and fifty-one drawings. Although Moore had exhibited in a number of group exhibitions during the 1920s, his show at the Warren Gallery was the first in which he exhibited a large group of sculptures and drawings together. The Warren Gallery was run by Dorothy Warren who, in 1961, Moore remembered as ‘a remarkable person with tremendous energy and real verve, real flair’.27 Moore’s exhibition was one in a series that presented the work of artists whose fathers had been miners. The series started with a sell-out exhibition of paintings by Evan Walters (1893–1951) and concluded with a controversial display of paintings by D.H. Lawrence, which were seized by the police.28 Moore went on to recall that although several sculptures were sold during the exhibition, it was his drawings that proved to be most successful commercially.29
Moore’s 1928 solo exhibition put him in the public eye and was an important factor in the establishment of his artistic career. Although some reviews were negative, most concurred that Moore was a young artist with potential. The reviewer for the Times concluded that although Moore’s abilities as a carver were not in question, ‘his actual sense of form is not yet highly developed’.30 One of the most positive reviews came from the Yorkshire Evening Post, although the reviewer approached the exhibition from a very particular perspective: under the title ‘Yorkshire Miner’s Artist-Son: Unconventional Work by Castleford Man’, the unnamed London correspondent prioritised Moore’s roots in Yorkshire as the key to understanding his exhibition. Making reference to Warren’s idea of exhibiting work by the children of miners, the author claimed that ‘Mr. Moore’s sculptures and drawings are full of primitive vitality which derives in some degree from the sturdy mining stock from which the artist springs’.31 Building on this notion that Moore’s art somehow originated from his father’s occupation, the reviewer went on to suggest that his sculptures ‘radiate vitality and masculine strength’.32
Photograph of Henry Moore carving the West Wind 1928 on the façade of the London Underground headquarters
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Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
In August 1928, shortly after his thirtieth birthday, Moore received his first public commission: to produce a sculptural relief for the newly opened Headquarters of London Transport at St. James’s Underground building (fig.10). Moore had been selected, along with six other sculptors, on the recommendation of Epstein, who had also been commissioned to produce reliefs for the architectural project. Moore carved a female figure titled West Wind 1928–9, which was installed in January 1929. As well as praise from fellow artists, the commission, his biographer Roger Berthoud had noted, ‘brought Moore a steady trickle of publicity’ and did much to set Moore up as one of the new generation of leading sculptors.33
Irina and Henry Moore on their wedding day, July 1929
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Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
Perhaps most important event of 1928, however, occurred at a dance at the Royal College of Art, when Moore met Irina Radetsky, a painting student at the college. Although Radestsky had attended the dance with her fiancé, Moore, who was unaware of this, insisted on walking her home. In the mid-1960s Moore recalled that ‘before that I had argued with all my friends that really serious artists shouldn’t get married, they should be married to their art: Michelangelo and Beethoven weren’t married, and so on. After meeting Irina I began to say Rembrant was married, Bach had twenty children’.34 Moore and Radestsky married shortly before his thirty-first birthday in July 1929, when she was twenty-two (fig.11).
Henry Moore in his studio in 1932 with Half-Figure on original oval base
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Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
Following their marriage Moore and his wife moved to 11A Parkhill Road, Hampstead (fig.12), where neighbours included young artists and writers, Barbara Hepworth, Stephen Spender and Herbert Read. Although Read was to describe Hampstead’s artistic community as ‘a nest of gentle artists’, it was in fact a subtly competitive as well as collaborative environment.35 The members of Moore’s artistic circle had mutual interests and similar approaches to carving and Moore became fully involved in London’s artistic community during the late 1920s and early 1930s.
Moore’s second solo show was held in April 1931 at the Leicester Galleries. Most reviews of this exhibition were mixed, with some, such as the unnamed critic for the Sheffield Independent, noting that Moore’s sculpture had ‘already aroused some criticism as ultra modern’.36 The reviewer for the Star saw Moore’s affinities with ancient Mexican sculpture with bemusement, while the critic for the Morning Post argued that ‘the cult of ugliness triumphs at the hands of Mr. Moore’ and lamented the waning influence of the classical Greek Elgin Marbles in the British Museum.37 However, more important for Moore and his burgeoning career than these reviews was the fact that Epstein wrote a prefatory note for the exhibition catalogue: he concluded that ‘for the future of sculpture in England Henry Moore is vitally important’.38
Notwithstanding this, Moore’s exhibition was heavily criticised by the older and more traditional members of staff at the Royal College, who questioned whether Moore should be allowed to teach sculpture there. Moore wrote to Rothenstein resigning from his post at the Royal College of Art in January 1931, and his resignation was reluctantly accepted. However, there is some uncertainty over whether Moore’s resignation was with immediate effect, or if he worked until the end of his contract, at the end of the summer term.39 Moore was keen to get on with his career as a sculptor, and in mid-1931 he and Irina purchased Jasmine Cottage in Barfreston in Kent for £80. Moore also retained his Hampstead studio and travelled regularly between his two homes during the holidays in order to fulfil his teaching duties. These working and travel arrangements continued when, in September 1931, Moore was appointed the first head of the newly formed Sculpture Department at Chelsea School of Art.
Photograph of Henry Moore standing in front of a cliff, Happisburgh, 1931 (taken by Ben Nicholson?)
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According to Berthoud, ‘for Henry Moore the 1930s were the most inventive, productive, and arguably the happiest years of a very long career’.40 Working at the forward thinking Chelsea School of Art and with a close social circle in Hampstead, Moore was at the centre of artistic the debates of the day. In 1930 and 1931 Moore and his friends took summer holidays together on the coast of Norfolk, at Happisburgh (fig.13). Hepworth and John Skeaping had accompanied Moore on the 1930 trip where they all became interested in the shapes of the weathered ironstone and flint pebbles found on the beach. As Skeaping recalled:
Henry, Barbara and I used to pick up large iron-stone pebbles from the beach which were ideal for carving and polished up like bronze. I rode and fished on the broads. Henry accompanied me on one of my fishing trips but he couldn’t leave sculpture alone for long and took with him a piece of iron-stone and a rasp. Sitting at one end of the boat he filed away continuously, occasionally hauling in his line to see if he had got anything on the end.41
Ivon Hitchens, Irina Moore, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Mary Jenkins on holiday at Happisburgh in Norfolk, 1931
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Photo: Douglas Jenkins, Henry Moore Foundation Archive
When Moore and Hepworth decided to return to Happisburgh in 1931, Ben Nicholson was invited to join the group (fig.14). Hepworth had met Nicholson and his wife Winifred in the spring of that year and the 1931 trip confirmed the end of her marriage to Skeaping and the start of her relationship with Nicholson. According to Berthoud, Nicholson exerted a significant influence in Moore’s work,42 and from 1931 onwards Moore’s blocky style gave way to softer, rounder forms. Like Nicholson’s and Hepworth’s, Moore’s work became more abstract, and more attuned to the developments of their European counterparts. With Nicholson, Moore exhibited with the Seven and Five Society in 1932 and that year became involved in the formation of a new artistic coalition, Unit One.
Unit One was the brainchild of the painter Paul Nash, and the aim of the group was to exhibit and champion the work of a diverse group of artists, architects and designers for the furtherance of a school of art that could be ‘both British, and modern’.43 As well as Nash, Moore, Hepworth and Nicholson, members included the architect Wells Coates, and painters Edward Wadsworth and Edward Burra. The group’s first exhibition took place at the Mayor Gallery, London, in April 1934, and it subsequently toured to six cities including Swansea, Manchester and Belfast. When the exhibition was shown in Liverpool it was visited by 30,000 visitors in four weeks.44 Shortly after the completion of this exhibition however, Unit One imploded, with its members all championing their particular artistic ethos to the detriment of others. Although Moore, Nash, Coates and Herbert Read spent a considerable amount of time between December 1934 and February 1935 attempting to resolve the group’s problems it was decided that further attempts of re-organising the group were futile.
During this time, and unbeknown to Moore, in May 1933 the painter and left-wing activist Clive Branson had offered his large collection of artworks works to the Tate. This included two sculptures by Henry Moore, four oil paintings by William Coldstream and a watercolour by Frances Hodgkins. The offer was rejected, however, by Tate’s director J.B. Manson and the Board of Trustees. In 1939 Manson would reiterate his opposition to Moore, telling Tate Trustee Robert Sainsbury, ‘Over my dead body will Henry Moore ever enter the Tate’.45
Front cover of the first monograph on Henry Moore, with an appreciation by Herbert Read, 1934
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Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
Although Unit One had failed as a long-term project, one of its positive outcomes was the strengthened friendship and working relationship between Moore and Herbert Read. Although the pair had known each other since the late 1920s, and Read had written about Moore’s work in his book Art Now 1933, they had worked closely together reagarding the aims and direction of Unit One and Read had edited the book Unit One 1934, which contained statements by, and photographs of, each member. Read was therefore in a unique position to not only know Moore personally, but his work intimately. In 1934 Read wrote the first book on Moore, Henry Moore: An Appreciation, published by Zwemmers (fig.15). Read was paid £20 for his introductory essay and Moore contributed £30 towards the publication costs. In addition to Read’s essay, the book contained a selection of photographs of Moore’s carvings and drawings. The book was printed in an edition of 1,500 and priced at 6 shillings. Very few of copies of the book sold, and according to the historian Nigel Vaux Halliday, this lack of interest reflected ‘Moore’s limited reputation outside modern art circles’.46 Despite this, the book did receive favourable reviews, with Anthony Blunt writing in the Spectator that ‘there are few contemporary English artists to whom it would be worth devoting a monograph, but Mr Henry Moore is certainly among them’.47
Henry Moore 'Two Forms' 1934
Henry Moore
Two Forms 1934
Museum of Modern Art, New York
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Although the Director of the Tate Gallery had declined Moore’s work in 1933, his work was drawing attention from international curators and museums. His first sale to a museum had taken place in 1931 when Max Sauerlandt, director of the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, had acquired an ironstone head. In 1934 Alfred H. Barr, director of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, expressed an interest in buying a wooden sculpture, Two Forms 1934 (fig.16).48 Barr had seen the sculpture during a visit to London and ‘since he very much wanted the piece to be part of the museum’s permanent collection, Barr asked Moore whether there might be someone in England who would make it possible for the Museum of Modern Art to obtain the work’.49 Moore called upon his patron Michael Sadler, who duly sent funds to Barr. Given that Sadler’s generosity facilitated the first acquisition of a Moore sculpture by an American gallery, he was undoubtedly one of Moore’s most important early patrons.
Burcroft 1939
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Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
In 1935 the Moores sold Jasmine Cottage and moved to a much larger property, Burcroft, in Kingston, Kent, near Canterbury (fig.17). Attached to the cottage was five acres of land: Moore later stated that ‘living at Burcroft was what probably clinched my interest in trying to make sculpture and nature enhance each other. I feel that the sky and nature are the best setting for my sculpture’.50 During the 1930s Moore had a number of solo exhibitions at the Leicester Galleries in London, and was also regularly featured in their group exhibitions. Sales of his work were increasing both through this commercial channel, and through direct sales between artist and client. With these sales and his regular teaching income Moore was able to start working on a much larger scale at Burcroft, investing in larger pieces of wood and stone, and for the first time employing an assistant to help with the intial ‘roughing out’ of the carvings.
An unidentified helper with Moore and Bernard Meadows moving Reclining Figure 1939 at Burcroft in 1939
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Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
In the summer of 1936 Bernard Meadows, a student at Norwich School of Art, began work as a studio assistant (fig.18); he would regularly work for Moore during college vacations until 1940. Moore later recalled, ‘my assistant and I were able to carve out of doors eight, nine or even ten hours a day. We would get up every early in the mornings and throw buckets of cold water over each other to make sure we were really awake. Some days we used to go down to Dover by car and swim before lunch’.51 Meadows became one of Moore’s closest friends and following in the footsteps of his mentor, later held the post of Professor of Sculpture at the Royal College of Art.
During the late 1930s Moore participated in a number of high profile exhibitions including Cubism and Abstract Art, curated by Alfred H. Barr at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1936. Despite the increasingly polarised artistic allegiances that had led to the collapse of Unit One, Moore continued to exhibit in a number of different contexts, alongside artists making quite different types of work. In 1936 he joined a group of surrealist artists led by painter Roald Penrose and became honorary treasurer of the organising committee for the International Surrealist Exhibition which took place at the New Burlington Galleries London, in June that year. Here he exhibited sculptures alongside works by Arp, Giacommetti, Brancusi, Calder, and Dalí (fig.19). He continued to exhibit in exhibitions of surrealist art until 1940 (fig.20). At the same time he also exhibited alongside constructivist artists. He exhibited alongside Nicholson and Mondrian, for example, in an exhibition called Abstract and Concrete in 1936, and he also contributed to Axis, a literary and artistic journal which sought to place British art within an international context. In 1937, Axis published a book of artists’ statements entitled The Painter’s Object, edited by Myfanway Piper. Moore’s contribution was an article called ‘The Sculptor Speaks’, which had recently been published in the Listener. In his article Moore tried to diminish the importance of the divisions between the different groupings: ‘The violent quarrel between the abstractionsits and the surrealists seems to me quite unnecessary. All good art has contained both abstract and surrealist elements, just as it has contained both classical and romantic elements – order and surprise, intellect and imagination, conscious and unconscious’.52
International Surrealist Exhibition at the New Burlington Galleries, London showing two sculptures by Moore, 1936
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Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
Surrealism Today, Zwemmer Gallery, London, showing Reclining Figure 1939 on the floor in 1940
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Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive

Moore went on to contribute to Circle: International Survey of Constructive Art in 1937, edited by Nicholson, Naum Gabo and the architect Leslie Martin. Its aim was to demonstrate the positive contributions the arts and humanities could make to all areas of life, and it included essays by mathematians and scientists as well as artists and urban planners. According to Berthoud, ‘the idea of art as a moral, and indeed spiritual, activitiy’, which was at the core of Circle’s beliefs, ‘was to remain with Moore throughout his career’,53 though only one issue of the journal was produced.
In the years immediately preceding the Second World War Moore, with the help of Meadows, made some of his most important works including a series of large elm figures, with limbs and torsos opened out and pierced (figs.21, 22). In 1937 Moore explained his use of the ‘hole’, or space, within solid forms:
The first hole made through a piece of stone is a revelation. The hole connects one side to another, making it immediately more three-dimensional. A hole can have as much shape-meaning as a solid mass. Sculpture in air is possible, where the stone contains only the hole, which is the intended and considered form. The mystery of the hole – the mysterious fascination of caves in hillsides and cliffs.54
Recumbent Figure, with a large ‘hole’ in its belly and fused limbs, was to become one of his most well-known sculptures but was important for another reason: it was through this work that Moore secured his life-long friendship with Sir Kenneth Clark, then Director of the National Gallery of Art. Although Clark had bought one of Moore’s drawings from his Warren Gallery exhibition in 1928, it is thought that Clark only entered Moore’s life in 1938.55 After the first buyer of Recumbent Figure was declared bankrupt and had to return the sculpture, Clark arranged for it to be purchased by the Contemporary Art Society in March 1939, which in turn presented it to the Tate Gallery in April 1939.

Henry Moore OM, CH 'Recumbent Figure' 1938
Henry Moore OM, CH
Recumbent Figure 1938
Tate N05387
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Henry Moore with Reclining Figure 1939 at Burcroft in 1939
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive

At the outbreak of the war Moore was at Burcroft preparing for a solo exhibition at the Leicester Galleries in November 1939. The exhibition was cancelled, and when Chelsea School of Art was evacuated to Northamptonshire, Moore ceased teaching. On 8 October 1939 Moore wrote to his friend, poet Arthur Sale:
I'm going on working just as usual – that seems the most sensible thing to do, besides being what I want to do. When war broke out I was in full swing with work, trying to get a satisfactory lot done for the sculpture exhibition I had fixed at the Leicester Galleries this November. Lately I’ve been making ideas and figures for metal and in the last five or six weeks I’ve modelled in wax and then cast into lead, some eight or nine things. So the war doesn’t so far seem to have interfered with work. But of course the war atmosphere might get closer and more intense, its sure to, – and for how long it will be possible then to concentrate well enough for proper work, who can tell. But in the meantime we consider ourselves lucky that we can see financially 4 or 5 months ahead, and I can quietly go on working here ... At present I’m a couple of months over the military service age. But if the war goes on for any length of time, the limit won’t stay for long at 41. I was in the trenches in the last war, and so all the more don’t want to shoot or be shot at, again. And like every other sane person I hate war and all it stands for. But I can’t say with complete certainty that there aren’t some things I might find myself ready to fight for, and so I can’t call myself a wholy [sic] consistent conscientious objector. I'd be glad if I could, for I respect greatly the real pacifist point of view, and I’m glad to know that you are a C.O., and will have the courage to remain so. I think this war need not have come – if we’d had a better government and a different attitude to Russia. Now it’s here, I think its more or less the same set up as in 1914, that is it’s largely an Imperialist war again, but with this difference that in place of the Kaiser and the old German militarists there is the more reactionary and barbaric regime of Hitler and the Nazi party. And now the war’s started, – if Fascist Germany wins then I think most of the civil liberties in Europe would go: there’d be less freedom of expression and a poor chance for the existence of the kind of painting, sculpture, literature, music, architecture, that I believe in:– Although no one can say there’s democracy in England in the real sense of the word, and although British Imperialism has a pretty bloody record, I hate Fascism and Nazism and all its aims and ideology so intensely, that I don’t think I could refuse to help in in [sic] trying to prevent it from being victorious. However when the time comes that I’m asked, or have got to do something in this war, I hope it will be something less destructive than taking part in the actual fighting and killing.56
In 1940 a number of events changed the direction of Moore’s career. It had become increasing difficult to travel around Kent, and the Moores found their cottage fell within an area of Kent designated as a restricted zone, curtailing free movement. They therefore moved back to their small studio appartment in Hampstead. One evening in September 1940 Moore and his wife were returning home on the Underground, after meeting friends for dinner in the West End:
As a rule I went into town by car and hadn’t been by tube for ages. For the first time that evening I saw people lying on the platforms at all the stations we stopped at. When we got to Belsize Park we weren’t allowed out of the station for an hour because of the bombing. I spent the time looking at the rows of people sleeping on the platforms. I had never seen so many reclining figures, and even the train tunnels seemed to be like the holes in my sculpture. Amid the grim tension, I noticed groups of strangers formed together into intimate groups and children alseep within feet of the passing trains.57
Henry Moore 'Pink and Green Sleepers' 1941
Henry Moore
Pink and Green Sleepers 1941
Tate N05713
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All rights reserved
Moore created some drawings depicting the shelter scenes and showed them to Kenneth Clark. Clark was chairman of the War Artists’ Advisory Committee (WAAC), which had been set up in November 1939, and he immediately invited Moore to become an official war artist. Moore, who had previously declined the same intivation, now accepted and set to work on what were to become known as his ‘shelter drawings’ (see fig.23).
Around this time Moore found that he had to move home again. Following a weekend away visiting friends, the Labour MP Leonard Matters and his wife, in Hertfordshire, the Moores returned to Hampstead to find their home cordoned off. The studio had suffered a bomb blast and was uninhabitable. The Moores returned to Hertfordshire and stayed with the Matters, who encouraged them to find accomodation nearby. On 20 September 1941 Henry and Irina moved into Hoglands, a cottage in the hamlet of Perry Green, where they would live for the rest of their lives.
Graham Sutherland, John Piper, Henry Moore and Kenneth Clark at Temple Newsam, Leeds in 1941
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
In order to produce the shelter drawings series Moore travelled from his new home in Hertfordshire to London to study the people sheltering in the Underground. There he made preliminary sketches which would be later worked up in his studio. In mid-1941 Moore was invited, with Graham Sutherland and John Piper, to exhibit work at Temple Newsam, Leeds (fig.24). The exhibition was his biggest show to date and included thirty-nine sculptures and fifty-six drawings, including some shelter drawings. The exhibition was opened by Kenneth Clark and attracted 55,000 visitors. The shelter drawings brought Moore to the attention of the wider public as displays of Official War Art toured the country. In August 1941 Moore was commissioned by WAAC to create a series of drawings depicting the war efforts at home, and the subject that was decided upon was coal mining. Moore sketches of men crouched and digging in pit tunnels were received with acclaim.
Curt Valentin and Henry Moore in the Upper Studio at Hoglands, Perry Green in 1950
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
Despite the war, or indeed because of it, Moore’s work became increasingly popular; as a now well respected artist, he was invited in 1941 to become a trustee of the Tate Gallery, a position he held until 1948. In May 1943 he had his first exhibition in the United States at the Buchholz Gallery, New York. The gallery was run by the German art dealer Curt Valentin who became Moore’s sole agent in the United States. Although Moore did not get to know Valentin until he visited New York in 1946, they subsequently became close friends. From 1948 until his death in 1954 Valentin spent every Christmas with the Moores at their home, Hoglands (fig.25). Shortly after Valentin’s death Moore wrote, ‘I begin to realise all the more now that he is dead how much he meant to me. How much, all the time, one unconsciously counted on his steadfast support, on him being there, tirelessly working for the cause of the painters and sculptors he believed in’.58
Henry Moore 'Madonna and Child' 1943–4
Henry Moore
Madonna and Child 1943–4
Church of St Matthew, Northampton
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
The shelter drawings brought Moore to the attention of Reverend Walter Hussey, vicar of St. Matthew’s church, Northampton. After seeing a war artists’ exhibition at the National Gallery in 1942, Hussey commissioned Moore to create a sculpture of the Madonna and Child for the church (fig.26). Moore explained:
When I was first asked to carve a Madonna and Child for St Matthew’s, although I was very interested I wasn’t sure whether I could do it, or whether I even wanted to do it. One knows that religion has been the inspiration of most of Europe’s greatest painting and sculpture, and that the church in the past has encouraged and employed the greatest artists; but the great tradition of religious art seems to have got lost completely in the present day, and the general level of church art has fallen very low ... Therefore I felt it was not a commission straightway and light-heartedly to agree to undertake, and I could only promise to make notebook drawings from which I would do small clay models, and only then should I be able to say whether I could produce something which would be satisfactory as sculpture and also satisfy my idea of the Madonna and Child theme as well ... I began thinking of the Madonna and Child for St. Matthew’s by considering in what ways a Madonna and Child differs from a carving of just a ‘Mother and Child’ – that is, by considering how in my opinion, religious art differs from secular art ... It’s not easy to describe in words what this difference is, except by saying in general terms that the Madonna and Child should have an austerity and a nobility, and some touch of grandeur (even hieratic aloofness) which is missing in the everyday ‘Mother and Child’ idea. Of the sketches and models I have done, the one chosen has, I think, a quiet dignity and gentleness.59
Henry Moore 'Maquette for Family Group' 1945
Henry Moore
Maquette for Family Group 1945
Tate N05606
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
In preparation for the Northampton carving Moore had made a series of terracotta maquettes, showing the Madonna and Child in different poses. In mid-1944 the Tate’s new director, Sir John Rothenstein, wrote to Moore asking about the possibility of commissioning another large work from this set of sketch models, but Moore politely turned down the suggestion saying, ‘it’s now more than a year since these little figure studies were done, and that’s what’s making me hesitate now over your suggestion – for it would mean putting my mind back in working to a year ago’.60 Nonetheless, the following year the gallery bought four of the bronze maquettes for the Northampton Madonna and Child 1943–4 (N05600–N05603) and three bronze maquettes for an unrealised large-scale family group (N05604–N05606) (fig.27).
Henry Moore 'Studies of the Artist's Child' 1946
Henry Moore
Studies of the Artist's Child 1946
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All rights reserved
Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
In March 1946 Irina gave birth to a daughter, Mary. Moore made numerous sensitive drawings of his daugther as she grew up (fig.28) and for some critics, the addition of a child into Moore’s life meant that ‘the image of the family took on a new, leaping, unpredictable intesity’.61
Installation view of Moore's retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, December 1946
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Soichi Sunami, Henry Moore Foundation Archive
After the war, demand for exhibitions and sales of Moore’s work grew apace; as Berthoud put it, ‘in this end-of-war period Moore’s work seemed to be in mixed shows everywhere’.62 In 1946 eight of Moore’s shelter drawings were presented to Tate by the War Artists Advisory Committee and in October that year he received an honorary degree from the University of Leeds. In December Moore’s first foreign retrospective exhibition opened at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, which toured to Art Institute of Chicago and San Francisco Museum of Art during the first half of 1947 (fig.29). The New York leg of the tour was visited by 158,000 visitors during its three month run, and the press reception was generally enthusiastic. The critic for the New York Times, Edward Alden Jewell, described the exhibition as an ‘unusually interesting and challenging survey’, and gave particular praise to the shelter drawings.63 Following the successes of the American tour, a smaller version of Moore’s solo show was organised by the British Council, and toured five cities in Australia over a period of ten months. The British Council then organised numerous solo international exhibitions of Moore’s work.
Moore standing next to Pat Strauss of the London County Council and Aneurin Bevan, Minister for Health, with Three Standing Figures 1948 at the Battersea Park Open Art Sculpture Exhibition 1948
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: The Henry Moore Foundation archive
During 1947 Moore and his assistants worked on a large-scale stone sculpture Three Standing Figures 1948 (fig.30) for an open-air sculpture exhibition at Battersea Park, London, which included works by Modigliani, Matisse and Epstein, among others, set in the open parkland. It was the first time that such an exhibition of outdoor sculpture had been attempted and Moore enthusiastically gave advice on the placement of individual sculptures. Despite mixed reviews in the press, the exhibition was an enormous success with the public, attracting 150,000 visitors over four months.
John Rothenstein (right) escorting Luigi Einaudi (centre), President of Italy, in the exhibition of Henry Moore's work in the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, 1948
© British Council Archives, Kew
A few weeks after the opening of the Battersea exhibition Moore travelled to Italy, where he represented Britain in the 1948 Venice Biennale (fig.31). This was the first edition of the bi-annual art festival since the end of the war and the British Council sent a joint exhibition of work by Moore, then Britain’s most famous living artist, and paintings by J.M.W. Turner, Britain’s most famous dead artist. At the Biennale Moore was awarded the prize for sculpture and according to Berthoud, ‘the great impact of the show on visiting museum directors, dealers and critics, transformed his reputation in Europe as suddenly as the MoMA show had in the USA’.64 In the summer following his return from Venice Moore reported to Arthur Sale that ‘we had four Americans, three Dutch, two Italians who all called last weekend, so that I got very little done’.65
Although Moore had served a full term as a Tate trustee from 1941 to 1948, when a seat became vacant in 1949 it was suggested that he should be reappointed. Sir Jasper Ridley, Chairman of the Tate Board of Trustees, wrote to Anthony Bevir, the Permanent Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Office, that ‘Henry Moore was a conspicuously useful Trustee on any topic that arose, whether in judgement or administration’.66 On 12 July 1949 Bevir duly wrote to Moore saying, ‘There is a vacancy on the Board of the Tate Gallery, and the Prime Minister has asked me to enquire whether you would be prepared to serve as a Trustee’.67 Moore readily agreed and sat on the board of the gallery until 1956. During this time, Moore advocated the purchase of sculpture by Alexander Calder, Naum Gabo and David Smith, among others.68
Photograph taken in 1949 of two full-size plaster versions of Family Group
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
At this time Moore was commissioned to create a sculpture for a new secondary school being built in the New Town of Stevenage. Moore decided to develop his series of family group maquettes originally made in 1945, and Family Group 1948–9 was installed at the school in September 1950 (fig.32). This was Moore’s first large scale bronze sculpture and both the Tate Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, bought casts.
In 1949 Wakefield City Art gallery hosted the largest exhibition of Moore’s work to date. The show was curated by Moore’s friend and fellow Yorkshireman, Philip Hendy, who that year succeeded Kenneth Clark as director of the National Gallery. The exhibition was largely successful and, following its display at Manchester City Art Gallery, toured Europe. The British Council took the exhibition to most of Europe’s largest cities, including Paris, Amsterdam and Hamburg. In March 1951 a version of the show was also mounted at the Zappeion Gallery in Athens, which gave Moore, then aged fifty-two, the opportunity to visit the home of classical sculpture (fig.33). Struck by the light in Greece and what he saw as the theatricality of its ancient monuments, he wrote enthusiastically to Kenneth Clark: ‘the Acropolis is wonderful – more marvellous than ever I imagined – The Parthenon against a blue sky – the sunlight and the scale it gets against the distant mountains can’t be given by any photograph – It’s the greatest thrill I’ve ever had’.69 Moore’s exhibition in Athens was visited by over 34,000 people and was a record attendance for any exhibition of contemporary art arranged by the British Council.70 W.G. Tatcham of the British Council in Athens, however, reported to his London colleagues that, ‘of course there has been controversy. I understand that one paper wrote that it was impertinent “for the barbarians from a foggy island to send these objects to the home of the greatest sculptors ever born”, or words to that effect’.71 Nonetheless, the consequence of Moore’s visit to Greece was that Moore embraced the classical subject of the draped woman, creating a series of reclining females throughout the 1950s (fig.34).
Henry Moore in Greece, 1951
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All rights reserved
Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
Henry Moore 'Draped Reclining Woman' 1957–8
Henry Moore
Draped Reclining Woman 1957–8
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All rights reserved
Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive

Henry Moore
Henry Moore
Reclining Figure 1951 installed on the South Bank during the Festival of Britain 1951
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
Two years earlier Moore had been commissioned to create a sculpture for the 1951 Festival of Britain. Later he was to describe the resulting work, Reclining Figure 1951 (fig.35; see also Tate T02270) as marking a breakthrough in his experimentations with masses and voids:
The ‘Festival Reclining Figure’ is perhaps my first sculpture where the space and the form are completely dependent on and inseparable from each other. I had reached the stage where I wanted my sculpture to be truly three-dimensional. In my earliest use of holes in sculpture, the holes were features in themselves. Now the space and form are so naturally fused that they are one.72
During the Festival a bronze cast was exhibited in front of the Land of Britain pavilion on the South Bank in London, and was criticised by David Sylvester, who wrote in the Studio:
One suspects that Moore has conceived this work purely as a sculptural object, not as an image, because the forms, considered as signs, are either conventional or arbitrary. The head is just as much a cliché as are the heads in official portraits by Royal Academicians. The legs have no connexion with the structure ... This latest addition, then, to Moore’s long series of ‘opened-out’ reclining figures has too little contact with life to carry the imaginative conviction and dramatic power of its predecessors. And, after all, it is not surprising that his handling of this theme should have reached the stage of empty, if impressive, virtuosity, since he has been exploiting it now for twenty years.73
During the Festival Moore also had an exhibition at the Tate Gallery. In the foreword to the exhibition catalogue, Philip James proclaimed Moore to be ‘our greatest living sculptor’, a statement that drew negative reactions in the press. Riding a crest of a wave of institutional support, Moore was also the subject of the first film on a living artist to be broadcast by the BBC. Directed by John Read (son of Herbert Read), the film followed Moore’s creative processes and made a detailed study of the development of the festival Reclining Figure.74 Transmitted on 30 April 1951, the film won a prize at the Venice Film Festival that summer.
Moore working on the Time-Life Screen, 1952–3
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
The public exposure received by Moore in 1951 did much to enhance his reputation both among the general public and the art world, and in the following three years Moore made some of his best known sculptures, including King and Queen 1952 (Tate T00228), Upright Internal/External Form 1952–3 (Tate T02272) and the Time-Life Screen 1952–3 (fig.36). In the summer of 1952 Moore’s work was again included in the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, but this time as the introduction to a group exhibition of a younger generation of sculptors including Robert Adams, Reg Butler and Bernard Meadows. Moore’s work was here positioned within a discourse of post-war anxiety or what Herbert Read in his catalogue essay called, ‘the iconography of despair ... the geometry of fear’.75
Henry Moore OM, CH 'Girl' 1931
Henry Moore OM, CH
Girl 1931
Tate N06078
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Also in 1952, the Tate purchased Moore’s sculpture Girl 1931 (Tate N06078; fig.37) from Whitechapel Art Gallery. This work had been donated to the Whitechapel by Clive Branson in the early 1930s and may well have been one of the sculptures declined by the Tate when Branson had offered it his collection. Although Moore was still a trustee , and there may have been conflicts of interest, the gallery was keen to acquire his work. That year Moore also became embroiled in a row at the museum that ‘engaged his emotions deeply’.76 The root of the crisis lay in the fact that although the Tate Gallery was based in its own building at Millbank, and from 1946 had its own acquisition budget, it was officially part of the National Gallery. The National Gallery and Tate Gallery Bill proposed the separation of the two institutions and was eventually passed in the following year. Parliamentary debates about the powers to be given to the Tate Gallery, however, led to personal attacks on the gallery’s Director, John Rothenstein. Moore found himself obliged to defend Rothenstein from accusations of incompetence as a director and of being provincial in artistic taste. Berthoud noted that Tate’s trustees ‘wrestled with the issues at lengthy meetings’, observing that ‘Moore stuck by his old friend when Rothenstein came within a single vote of being sacked’.77
Henry Moore and Rufino Tamayo at the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent, Xochicalco, Mexico, 1953
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
Following a short illness in 1953, Moore ended the year with a trip to Brazil where he was awarded the International Sculpture Prize at the São Paulo Bienal. From there he travelled to Mexico, fulfilling a long-held desire to visit the ancient archaeological sites of Teotihuacan and Xochicalco (fig.38), where he acquired a number of pre-Colombian artefacts which he later displayed at Hoglands.
In 1955 Moore was commissioned to create an architectural relief for an extension to the Bouwcentrum in Rotterdam (fig.39). Although Moore disliked sculpture being subsumed by architecture, the opportunity to work with the medium of brick and the scale of the project stimulated him and inspired a series of standing organic relief plaques and standing forms, including the three Upright Motives in Tate’s collection (Tate T02274, T02275 and T02276).
Henry Moore 'Wall Relief' 1955
Henry Moore
Wall Relief 1955
Brick Bouwcentrum, Rotterdam
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive

Moore’s position as a leading figure in British culture was cemented in June 1955, when he was named a Companion of Honour (CH) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. The honour was, and remains, particularly prestigious, as it can only be held by fifty British people at any one time, and is of a higher rank than a Knighthood. To many the honour was long overdue, but in fact Moore had previously turned down a Knighthood in December 1950.
In May 1955 Moore was approached to create a large-scale sculpture for the new United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) headquarters being built in Paris. The building was being designed by architect Marcel Breuer, who Moore had known from his Hampstead days in the 1930s, and the critic Herbert Read sat on the committee established to commission artworks for the premises. Major commissions were also awarded to Picasso, Calder, Arp and Noguchi. Moore went to Paris in November to discuss the commission and was given a delivery deadline of mid-1958. In August 1956 he wrote to Read: ‘It’s not going to be an easy commission. So far what ideas have come (some of them) might work out as sculpture purely for myself, but no one idea has turned up to concentrate on yet ... I have given up all my other work ... [but] the size and importance of the commission is such that I can’t expect even the preliminary stages to be quick’.78
Henry Moore at work on UNESCO Reclining Figure, spring 1958
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
In early 1957 Moore took three maquettes to Paris to be judged by representatives of the architects and the art advisory committee. All independently selected the same work, which fortunately was also Moore’s favourite. The decision was unanimous and Moore had the go-ahead to carve his Reclining Figure in travertine marble (fig.40). The marble was supplied by an Italian firm called Henraux, located at the foot of the Carrara mountains. Artisans at Henraux did much of the initial roughing out of the sculpture, although from the summer of July 1957 until early 1958 Moore had regular trips of three to four weeks duration. Nonetheless, the sculpture was not installed in Paris until October 1958 in time for inauguration of the Unesco building in November. The sculpture was by far the largest work Moore had created to date. In the years that followed Moore received numerous public commissions, and created works for public plazas on a much larger size than before.
Henry Moore OM, CH 'King and Queen' 1952-3, cast 1957
Henry Moore OM, CH
King and Queen 1952–3, cast 1957
Tate T00228
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Closer to home, on 16 May 1957, Tate’s Board of Trustees approved the proposal to acquire a cast of King and Queen 1952–3 (Tate T00228; fig.41). According to the minutes of the meeting: ‘the Director emphasised the extreme generosity and helpfulness of the sculptor’s attitude in making works available from his own collection for sums substantially below their market value ... and for agreeing to seek the approval of the authorities of the City of Antwerp for making an extra cast of King and Queen.79 Despite Moore’s increasingly high international status, he remained loyal to the Tate Gallery: in a letter to Moore dated 18 July 1958 Rothenstein noted that the purchase of King and Queen had been facilitated by the generosity of Moore, who had priced the sculpture at ‘virtually the cost of the casting, namely £1,200’.80
Moore’s dedication to the Tate was also demonstrated in February 1959. Following the death of the collector and publisher, E.C. Gregory, his executors, chaired by solicitor Leonard Wade, asked his friends Henry Moore, Herbert Read and poet T.S. Eliot to act as an art advisory committee, providing advice on the distribution of his personal collection of paintings, sculptures and non-western artefacts. Named beneficiaries, including the Tate Gallery, the Arts Council and the University of Leeds, were to have the opportunity to select works from the estate, and the remainder was to be sold at Sotheby’s auction house. Upon receiving the inventory of Gregory’s collection, the Tate trustees were given the first choice to select the six works promised to the gallery under the terms of Gregory’s will. On the guidance of Moore, Read and Eliot, the executors also provided Tate the opportunity to purchase a further twelve works prior to the auction sale. Although it was noted that Moore might have a conflict of interest as he had works in Gregory’s collection and was a former Tate Gallery trustee, he nonetheless was asked to draw up a list of appropriate purchases, including prices, for Tate in his capacity as art advisor to the Gregory estate. Following Gregory’s life-long example of supporting younger artists, Moore’s proposed acquisition list included works by the sculptors Reg Butler, Anthony Caro, Hubert Dalwood and Eduardo Paolozzi, and it was duly accepted by the Tate trustees.81 In a letter to Moore, Sir John Rothenstein, Director of the Tate Gallery wrote that the trustees, ‘asked me to tell you how deeply grateful they are for all the trouble which you have given yourself in order to make this as satisfactory as possible’, concluding, ‘Looking back over this letter I feel that, having richly earned a period of honourable retirement you are being just as much involved in the Gallery’s affairs as you were when you were a Trustee’.82
By the end of the 1950s Moore had dramatically changed his working methods compared to how he worked prior to the war. Studios were built or enlarged in the grounds of Hoglands, and a team of assistants enlarged small plaster maquettes that were then sent to bronze foundries for casting in editions. Moore found that he could easily sell small versions in bronze of his large-scale commissions, thereby ensuring a steady income with little or no extra work. In November 1960 Moore, who had not had a solo exhibition in England for five years, had an exhibition of recent work at the Whitechapel Art Gallery (fig.42), curated by Bryan Robertson. Reviews were mixed. Following an appreciative discussion of Moore’s large-scale reclining figures, including Two-Piece Reclining Figure No.2 (Tate T00395), Nevile Wallis wrote in the Observer that ‘the vaulting imagination of this work ... naturally sharpens criticisms of those ingenuities where stylisation seems employed rather for its own sake than as a vehicle of serious emotion’.83 In Art International the critic Lawrence Alloway argued that Moore’s work failed because of its ambitions to represent a universal humanism. ‘Obviously out of the highest motives, Moore is hoping to give his public sculptures a worthy message, a stirring content’, but for Alloway it was no longer possible to speak of universal values or truths. A person could only speak of his or her own time and place, he believed, and observed that ‘Moore seems dissatisfied with what he can reach from his own situation. As a result all he offers, despite his ambition, is a sculpture of empty Virtues’.84
Henry Moore and Bryan Robertson in the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, December 1960– January 1961
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive

Without the eloquence of Alloway’s thoughtful criticism, the sculptor Anthony Caro also questioned Moore’s apparent unquestioned dominance within British sculpture in his response to the Whitechapel show. Caro, who had worked as a studio assistant for Moore from 1951 to 1953, wrote in the Observer that although Moore had paved the way for the next generation of artists, he ‘has paid heavily for his stardom’: ‘my generation abhors the idea of a father-figure, and his work is bitterly attacked by artists and critics under forty when it fails to measure up to the outsize scale it has been given’.85 Caro’s objections to Moore’s work were based on the uncritical nature of the process by which Moore’s tiny maquettes were scaled-up, in his view, regardless of whether the sculptural form could sustain such enlargement.
Despite these criticisms, and following negotiations carried out over the course of the previous three years, the Friends of Tate acquired six sculptures by Moore for the gallery in December 1960. All the sculptures were acquired directly from the artist and were selected as representative examples of Moore’s various styles and subjects to date. They were Composition 1932 (Tate T00385); Stringed Figure 1938/60 (Tate T00386); Reclining Figure 1939 (Tate T00387); Helmet Head No.1 1950 (Tate T00388); Mother and Child 1953 (Tate T00389); and Working Model for Unesco Reclining Figure 1957 (Tate T00390).
Moore’s status grew ever greater in the 1960s, and he spent much of the decade working on large-scale public commissions. The first of these was a sculpture for a new arts and cultural centre being built in New York City. In December 1961 Moore was approached to create a sculpture that would be sited in a water pool the size of a tennis court in front of the Vivian Beaumont Theatre and Library Building. The fee for the commission was $240,000, which was to cover all costs, including casting and shipping. Moore was interested in the idea of a sculpture reflected in water and accepted the commission. During the summer of 1962 Moore made some maquettes and tested them out in a small swimming pool in the garden at Hoglands. He settled on a two-piece figure. At 8.5 meters long and 5.1 meters high, Reclining Figure was Moore’s largest sculpture to date and in order to build a full-size plaster model, from which a bronze version could be cast he had to erect a temporary studio (fig.43). Once the plaster was complete, it was cut up into sixty-five smaller pieces and shipped to the Noack foundry in West Berlin, where the pieces were cast and then welded together. The job took the foundry over a year to complete, and the work was shipped to New York in July 1965. When the Vivian Beaumont Theatre and Library Building was opened in August, a group of artists picketed the sculpture with placards saying ‘Insult to American Artists – No Moore’.86
During this period Moore was beginning to think about his legacy, and in a letter dated 14 August 1964 Tate’s Director John Rothenstein wrote to Moore, stating,
You have spoken to me on a number of occasions about the idea which you have in mind about bequeathing certain of your works to the Tate ... My reason for writing to you now is that my last Board meeting takes place on the 17th next month ... I should be very proud if the trustees could be informed then, even if only in somewhat general terms, of your splendid intention; indeed I should feel this to make a wonderful conclusion to my Directorship.87
Plaster versions of Working Model for Reclining Figure (Lincoln Centre) 1963–5 and Reclining Figure 1963–5 at Hoglands c.1964
The Henry Moore Foundation
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved

A meeting between Moore and Rothenstein took place on 15 September 1964, and although what was said was not recorded, Rothenstein was able to make his desired announcement at his final meeting with the trustees. On 18 September he wrote to Moore, saying ‘yesterday I reported to the Board in accordance with our agreement on Tuesday, your intention of making a bequest of a number of your works to the gallery’.88 Rothenstein concluded his directorship of the Tate as he wished, announcing Moore’s intention to give the gallery a selection of his works, however he could not have foreseen the hurdles which his successor Norman Reid would face, not only in the form of opposition at home but also from competition for Moore’s work from abroad.89
The unveiling of Three Way Piece No.2: Archer 1964–6 in Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, 27 October 1966
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: The Globe and Mail, Toronto, Canada, Henry Moore Foundation Archive
Moore’s relationship with the city of Toronto began in 1964 when Viljo Revell, the architect of the new city hall, invited Moore to create a sculpture for its outdoor plaza. Revell visited Moore at Hoglands and various maquettes were examined in conjunction with the architectural plans; it was decided that a large scale version of Working Model for Three Way Piece No.2: Archer (see Tate T02299) would be made. However, on 8 November 1964 Revell died and it transpired that he had not had the authority to commission a sculpture from Moore. In March 1966 a debate between the city’s councillors and aldermen took place over whether the commission should go ahead. Moore’s sculpture was eventually rejected by thirteen votes to ten. However, Toronto’s mayor Philip Givens did not give up on the idea of having a Henry Moore sculpture in his city, and set about raising the money for its acquisition through private donations. A fundraising committee was organised and within five weeks $70,000 of the required $120,000 had been raised. On hearing the news, Moore offered to reduce the price of the sculpture to $100,000 on the condition that he could cast a second edition, and by June 1966, the deal was agreed. The sculpture was unveiled in Nathan Phillips Square Toronto on 26 October 1966 (fig.44). Although opposition to Moore’s sculpture remained in some quarters, Moore himself had been impressed by the dedication and warm reception the Canadians had given to his work. In the months that followed, this would stand in stark contrast to the hostility he received at home.
In February 1967 it was announced in the British press that Moore had pledged a gift of sculptures to the nation. Rothenstein and Reid had both realised that, at its present size, the gallery would be unable to display Moore’s large gift of between twenty and thirty sculptures, and so had left open the date of when the gift would be made. Nonetheless, some commentators questioned whether the sculptures should be housed at the Tate at all, with one correspondent in the Times suggesting the creation of a ‘Moorehenge’ on Salisbury Plain.90
While these debates took place in the British press, Moore travelled to Toronto to see Archer and attended a series of celebratory events in March 1967. It was a trip Moore thoroughly enjoyed and it was during a reception in Moore’s honour that the idea of a Moore Gallery in Toronto was first mooted. The idea was quickly picked up by the city’s leading philanthropists, politicians, and significantly, Samuel J. Zacks, president of the Art Gallery of Ontario, and its director William Withrow. A local businessman approached Moore about the possibility of the city acquiring more of his works and Moore is reported to have responded: ‘Well, you know, I’m British ... and I feel I own a debt to the country I come from ... however, I don’t think the Tate is going to be big enough to handle all my work. There may be something remaining, and with regard to that, perhaps something might be possible’.91 On 15 March Moore met with Zacks and Withrow to discuss the possibility of making a number of acquisitions, and the next day Moore was quoted in the Toronto Daily Star as saying, ‘I’d like the sculpture to go to London for sentimental reasons, but offers from somewhere else might make help the Tate Gallery make up its mind’.92
Moore’s statement had an effect and in April 1967 the British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, announced the government’s pledge of £200,000 for the building of new galleries at Tate to house the Henry Moore gift. His announcement was made at the Royal Academy banquet, and the sum was dependent upon the Tate trustees raising a similar sum for the completion of a new north-east wing extension, plans for which were already underway. However, as Berthoud has pointed out, ‘the way he [Wilson] had blurred together the display of the Moores and the funding of the Tate extension was to prove very troublesome’.93 What was unclear was that the sum of £200,000 was in addition to funds to be provided by the Treasury for the Tate Gallery extension: to many it seemed as though a Moore annexe was about to be built at the Tate.
The negative effect of Wilson’s announcement was made explicit in a letter written by forty-one British artists and published in the Times on 26 May. In the letter, the signatories queried whether large display areas within a public gallery should be reserved for a single artist, suggesting that such preferential treatment would have a negative impact on the exhibitionary opportunities of others.94 A few days after the publication of the artists’ letter in the Times, Samuel Zacks wrote to Moore stating that the Art Gallery of Ontario would be interested in establishing a Henry Moore Gallery:
I would like to point out that a handsome Moore Gallery and sculpture court on the site of our own gallery would be most meaningful, not only to Toronto, but to the whole continent which holds your work in the highest esteem. In the city there are close to one hundred pieces of your works [in private collections], and many would be donated to the gallery and added to the ones you might donate, so we could assemble a very imposing group of your creations.95
As Berthoud observed, ‘the contrast between supportive, enthusiastic Canadians and ungrateful, niggardly Britons could scarcely have been more heavily underlined. The Tate did not get less as a result, but Moore’s desire to be generous to Toronto was reinforced’.96
Having been announced in the press, Moore’s gift to the Tate had attracted the attention of a number of philanthropists and interested parties from beyond the gallery, including property developer Max Rayne and Lord Perth, First Crown Estate Commissioner, who proposed to Moore a number of alternative options for housing the Tate gift. These included a Henry Moore Museum, a smaller pavilion for plasters and maquettes and a sculpture park in Regents Park, London. By October 1967 the Tate’s Director and Board of Trustees were in a muddle over whether or not a separate Henry Moore Museum, run by the Tate, was wanted, or whether the gift could be incorporated into the existing plans for the new extension. Throughout late 1967 and early 1968 the chairman and deputy chairman of the Tate’s trustees, Lousada and Robert Sainsbury, made regular visits to Henry Moore aiming to keep his mind focused on his gift to Tate. It was the trustees’ belief that a separate Moore museum should not be constructed, that the ‘best’ works should remain in the UK and that Moore’s long-term reputation would be best served by his work being seen within the context of the British national collection.
However, in early December 1967, Moore visited Toronto again in order to discuss the proposals in more detail on his return from the unveiling of his large-scale sculpture Nuclear Energy at the University of Chicago. Some years before, in November 1963, Moore had been approached by Professor William McNeill, head of the History department at the University of Chicago enquiring whether he would be interested in creating a work commemorating the physicist Enrico Fermi. On 2 December 1942 Fermi had achieved the world’s first controlled nuclear chain reaction in the University’s laboratories, and to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the event the University was seeking an appropriate tribute. McNeill told Moore that he hoped the sculpture would be ‘charged with high hope and profound fear, just as every triumphant breakthrough has always been’.97 Moore replied on 2 December 1963, ‘I realize what a tremendous happening that was, and that a monument for such a triumphant breakthrough may be called for. It seems an enormous event in man’s history, and a worthy memorial for it would be a great responsibility and not easy to do. However, it would be a great challenge and something I might like to consider’.98 That month McNeill and two other delegates from the University visited Hoglands, where they were shown a small maquette for a domed sculpture. Although nothing was formally agreed, Moore decided to go ahead and enlarge the sculpture and if the Chicago committee liked the larger work they could proceed with the commission. A four-foot working model of the sculpture was made plaster in the summer of 1964 and then cast in bronze in early 1965 (fig.45). On seeing the photographs of the smaller sculpture the University committee enthusiastically agreed to purchase the sculpture. The bronze was cast by Noack and shipped to Chicago in August 1967. Moore arrived in Chicago on 29 November to oversee the sculpture’s installation and to attend the inauguration of the sculpture at 3.36pm on 2 December, the exact time of Fermi’s experiment (fig.46).
Henry Moore OM, CH 'Atom Piece (Working Model for Nuclear Energy)' 1964-5, cast 1965
Henry Moore OM, CH
Atom Piece (Working Model for Nuclear Energy) 1964–5, cast 1965
Tate T02296
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Henry Moore in front of Nuclear Energy at the University of Chicago, 2 December 1967
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive

In July 1968 Moore celebrated his seventieth birthday with a solo exhibition at the Tate Gallery, curated by David Sylvester. There had been some debate over whether or not the exhibition should be the inaugural exhibition at the newly built Hayward Gallery but the Tate was decided upon and attracted 124,081 people in sixty-seven days. At the celebratory dinner the collector Joseph Hirshhorn presented Tate’s Director Norman Reid with a cheque for $30,000; he stated, ‘They can do anything they like [with it] ... Henry is one of the greats of the twentieth-century, and a lovely, simple human being. I wanted to do something in his name’.99 During the exhibition, on 19 July 1968, Locking Piece 1963–4 (Tate T02293) was erected near to the Tate Gallery in a newly designed garden and riverside walkway on Millbank by the River Thames. Although it would later be included in Moore’s gift to the Tate, it was then on loan to Westminster County Council.
While the Tate Gallery was celebrating Moore’s birthday, rumours abounded in the Canadian press that Moore had decided to leave his collection to Canada because the Tate was unable to house it properly. Under pressure from the Canadian press for clarification, Reid spoke to Moore in October 1968. Moore confirmed that although he planned to give Canada some of his original plasters, ‘there was no intention of in any way altering his gift to the Tate’.100 Nonetheless, on 9 December 1968 Moore wrote to Edmund Bovey, President of the Art Gallery of Ontario, indicating his ‘firm intention to donate to the Art Gallery of Ontario a sufficiently large and representative body of my work to make it worthwhile building a special pavilion or gallery for its permanent display’.101 On 16 December 1968 Norman Reid visited Moore at Perry Green in order to discuss the details of the gift to the Tate. Additional works were proposed, and Moore suggested that displays of the gift should emphasise his processes of working, showing where possible preparatory sketches, maquettes and working models with the final versions of his sculptures.
A deed of agreement regarding the Moore Gift to Tate was signed by Moore, the Tate Director, and the Chair and vice-Chair of the trustees in June 1969. Moore made no specific stipulations with regard to the provision of dedicated gallery space or the number of works to be exhibited at any one time. Instead, the gift was made subject simply to the gallery’s planned expansion, and the proviso that Moore could retain the works during his lifetime, should he so choose, and swap or exchange works on the list of works with the trustees’ approval. These terms were accepted by the trustees in the knowledge that plans for the north-east gallery extension were underway and on the understanding that, given Moore’s close friendship with director Norman Reid and Robert Sainsbury, one of the trustees, there would be no significant changes to the agreed list of works without proper consultation.102
Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo at the Tate Gallery, 10 March 1970
Tate Archive TGA 9313/6/2/181
In June 1968 Moore had visited his old friend Herbert Read in Yorkshire. Read had been appointed to Tate’s Board of Trustees in 1965 despite suffering from tongue cancer. Five days after Moore’s visit, Read died on 12 June 1968, and ‘a moment of silence was held in his honour at the next board meeting, held eight days later’.103 The need to recognize Reid’s unique importance to the development and promotion of British art was quickly noted and along with Moore, Hepworth, Gabo and Nicholson each donated a sculpture to the Tate in his memory. Moore presented the marble work Upright Form: Knife Edge 1966 (Tate T01172) because when their friendship was closest – in the early 1930s – he had worked primarily in stone. A display of the four donated sculptures was held at the Tate Gallery in March 1970 (fig.47).
Between 1971 and 1974 Moore worked closely with the Canadian curator Alan Wilkinson to draw up a list of possible works for the Henry Moore Centre in Toronto and oversaw the architectural plans for the new exhibition space. During this time the ‘Hoglands Trust’ was also established, initially with a view to the property becoming an outpost of Tate, although it subsequently developed into the independent Henry Moore Foundation. By January 1973, however, the list of works to be included in the gift to the Tate Gallery was still not settled. There was a hope that the maquette studio in its entirety could be secured for the gallery but these discussions never came to fruition.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s Moore worked increasingly with etching and lithography. Dedicated studios at Hoglands were set up for his graphic work, and in 1969–70 he created the Elephant Skull Album (fig.48), followed in 1972–3 by the Stonehenge series.
In 1972 the largest and most impressive exhibition of Moore’s work to date was held in the Forte di Belvedere in the outskirts of Florence, attracting 345,000 visitors (fig.49). According to Berthoud, ‘in no other major exhibition of his career was Moore as intimately involved in the arrangements’.104 Many of the works exhibited came from his private collection, or belonged to his wife or daughter; where works were borrowed, Moore wrote letters to private collectors requesting their loan. The exhibition was opened by Princess Margaret. John Thompson, deputy editor of the Sunday Telegraph, pronounced it ‘a stunning climax to the career of the miner’s son from Yorkshire who first found his way to Florence as a student in 1925, and whose imagination has been stirred ever since by the magnificence of the Florentine achievement’.105 However not all of the British reviewers regarded the exhibition in such glowing terms. Guy Brett, writing in the Times, suggested that the simplified forms of works such as Large Square Form with Cut 1969–70 with its vast expanse of smoothed surface dissipated any internal energy or life-force that Moore had conveyed in earlier sculptures.106
Henry Moore OM, CH 'Elephant Skull Plate XVII' 1969
Henry Moore OM, CH
Elephant Skull Plate XVII 1969
Tate P02118
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Henry Moore Large Square Form with Cut 1969–70 against the skyline of Florence, 1972
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive

Henry Moore 'Ready for Shearing' 1974
Henry Moore
Ready for Shearing 1974 Sheep Album
Tate P02241
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All rights reserved
Moore might have been forgiven for slowing down but in the years leading up to his eightieth birthday in 1979 he remained active, overseeing both the enlargements of his carvings at Henraux, and the casting of his bronzes at the Noack foundry. He continued to produce drawings and graphics, creating his Sheep Sketchbook in 1972 and the Sheep Album of intaglio prints in 1974 (fig.50). In 1972 he was invited to create a set of prints interpreting a suite of poems by W.H. Auden. Moore and Auden had been friends since the 1930s and in September 1973 Moore visited him at his home in Vienna to discuss the project. Ten days later Auden died of a heart attack, giving the project a particular poignancy. Moore’s prints were exhibited at the British Museum in spring 1974.
Henry Moore with plaster for Upright Motive No.1: Glenkiln Cross 1955–6. Inauguration of the Henry Moore Sculpture Centre at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 1974
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
On 26 October 1974 The Henry Moore Sculpture Centre opened at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). Moore’s gift to the gallery comprised 101 sculptures in plaster and bronze, 57 drawings and 200 prints and etchings, at a total value of $15million. Moore travelled to Toronto to oversee the installation of the new galleries, working with the curator Alan Wilkinson (fig.51). In a letter following the inauguration, which he had attended, Norman Reid wrote to Moore, reminding him of the need to settle the gift to Tate: ‘now that you have got Toronto properly launched I hope we can turn to considering the collection of your work in Britain in earnest’.107 Reid acknowledged that the arrangements of Moore’s Gift to the Tate had taken a considerable amount of time but reassured Moore that this was not a sign of indifference but rather came from a desire not to badger the artist. In March 1975 it was announced that, in addition to his sculptures, Moore would give a complete set of his graphic works to the national collection.
In the summer of 1977 Moore had his first major exhibition in Paris. Although he had exhibited at the Musée Rodin in 1961, his 1977 exhibition at the Orangerie and in Tuileries Garden was on a scale that rivalled the earlier exhibition in Florence. William Packer reviewed the show favourably, writing in the Financial Times: ‘The show is uncrowded, the selection of work extremely well-judged, comprehensive and assimilable, taking us through a life’s work clearly and economically. The surprising result is that prejudice and conditioning are forgotten, and it becomes as though we are seeing the mass of the work, not for the first time, but with fresh eyes.’108
In the same year the details of Moore’s gift were finally hammered out, with an agreement for it to be presented formally to Tate in 1978 during an exhibition of Moore’s drawings planned to celebrate the artist’s eightieth birthday. After some fraught conversations and mixed wires in which Moore suggested reducing the gift from thirty-eight to thirty works, the list recorded in the 1969 deed was agreed. However, when the time came to transport the sculptures in March 1978 in preparation for the exhibition in June, Moore reduced the works to thirty-six, telling Norman Reid that ‘when it came to finalise the list it was discovered that four sculptures ... had already been given by me to my daughter Mary [Danowski], at a date previous to 1969’.109 However, Mary Danowski donated two of the four works so that her father’s gift would present a more comprehensive survey of his work. A press release was duly prepared announcing that ‘The group [of sculptures] is the most substantial gift of works ever given to the Tate by an artist during his lifetime and includes works ranging in date from 1939–40 to 1968’. Two of the works had already been passed to Tate, Locking Piece which had been sited on Millbank since 1968, and Upright Form: Knife Edge, which had been given in memory of Herbert Read.
Woman 1957–8, cast date unknown, installed outside Cartwright Hall, Bradford, during Henry Moore: 80th Birthday Exhibition, April–June 1978
Tate Archive
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All rights reserved
Moore’s eightieth birthday was thus celebrated in style. The Tate Gallery showed the works in the gift, together with works by Moore already in the collection and an exhibition of his drawings. Moore’s large scale outdoor sculptures were installed in Kensington Gardens and new carvings were shown at the Serpentine Gallery. Outside of London, there was also an exhibition of his work at Cartwright Hall in Bradford (fig.52). Together these exhibitions received enormous amounts of press coverage. While some critics believed that Moore’s success and celebrity was ‘entirely deserved’,110 and Stephen Spender composed a poem in the artist’s honour, 111 others were scathing. Writing in the Spectator John McEwen lamented, ‘There is nothing to do by grin and bear it, because casting an eye over the objects of all of this adulation is a dispiriting business’.112 He continued that ‘what immediately strikes one is the lack of development, the lack of intellectual engagement’.113 For McEwen, Moore’s work did not show any artistic development, relying instead on a clutch of ideas first discovered in the 1930s; living in his own hermetically sealed world, Moore had not had to engage with the intellectual and political developments within artistic practice in the 1960s and 70s. McEwen concluded, ‘the fake heroics of his gigantic bones and triumphal arches, the abject lack of curiosity and quality in the representational drawings of his last years is breathtaking’.114
I.M. Pei and Henry Moore at the inauguration of Dallas Piece 1977–8, City Hall Plaza, Dallas, 1978
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
In addition to his birthday exhibitions, 1978 saw Moore travel to Vienna, Washington D.C., Paris, Oslo and Bonn, for exhibitions and installations of his sculpture. The trip to Washington in May was to oversee the installation of Two Piece Mirror Knife Edge 1962–5 at the entrance of the new East Building of the National Gallery, designed by architect I.M. Pei. In December that year Moore returned to the United States for the installation of Dallas Piece 1977–8 (fig.53) in front of the new city hall, again designed by Pei. For the Dallas commission Moore had decided that an enlarged version of Three Piece Vertebrae 1968 (see Tate T02303) would be suitable, but it was Pei who ‘proposed that the component parts should be rearranged: if they were grouped in a triangular cluster rather than strung out in a line, people would be able to walk through the sculpture on the piazza’.115
Having been diagnosed with a diabetic condition in 1972, and suffering broken ankle in 1974, that Moore was able to do so much travelling in 1978 was remarkable. However, his age was catching up with him, and early in 1980 Moore suffered a mild case of hypothermia. Although he had intended to travel to Madrid for his exhibition there in spring 1981, ill health prevented him. Over the next few years Moore faced the loss of a number of close friends including Sir Philip Hendy, who died in September 1980, Joseph Hirshhorn who died in August 1981 and Sir Kenneth Clark, who died in May 1983.
Henry Moore laying the foundation stone outside Leeds City Art Gallery, 10 April 1980
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: The Times, Henry Moore Foundation Archive
In 1977 the Hoglands Trust, which owned Moore’s estate at Perry Green, including the studios, houses, cottages and a collection of work, was superceeded by The Henry Moore Foundation. The trustees of the Foundation were to administer in perpetuity, the sale and exhibition of Moore’s work, and to spend its funds through the allocation of grants, bursaries and scholarships to promote sculpture within the UK. Around this time it was suggested that an extension be added to Leeds City Art Gallery for the study of sculpture. Moore and the Foundation provided £300,000 for the building, overseen by architect Leslie Martin, adding a further £20,000 for furnishings. Moore visited Leeds in April 1980 to lay the foundation stone (fig.54), returning in July 1981 for the topping-out ceremony, and again in November 1982 for the inauguration ceremony, at which Queen Elizabeth II opened the new galleries.
Installation view of the exhibition celebrating Moore's eighty-fifth birthday at the Tate Gallery
Tate Archive
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
By 1983 Moore was mostly confined to a wheelchair, and in August that year was admitted to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge. He underwent a prostrate operation, which did not go well, and it seemed as though he might not recover. Visitors to Hoglands found him a frail man with a failing memory. Nonetheless, Moore’s work was still in demand and a number of galleries marked his eighty-fifth birthday with exhibitions that year. The Tate Gallery exhibited a selection of new sculptures, drawings and prints (fig.55), as did Galerie Maeght, Paris and Marlborough Fine Art, London.
Henry Moore with St. Paul's Madonna and Child 1984
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: The Press Association, Henry Moore Foundation Archive
One of Moore’s last public appearances was at the dedication of his carving Mother and Child 1983 at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, in March 1984 (fig.56). The Dean, Dr. Alan Webster, had long been an admirer of Moore’s work, and invited Moore to create a work for the north choir aisle. Moore decided on a large Madonna and Child carved in travertine marble. The smoothed contours of the sculpture contrasted with the earlier Madonna and Child at St Matthew’s Church, Northampton (fig.26).
Despite failing health Moore continued to assert himself. In his last letter to the Tate Gallery, dated 24 February 1986, Moore wrote to the Director Alan Bowness expressing his concern over news reports that public art galleries and museums, including the Tate, might start charging admission fees. He reminded Bowness that that his gift was made on the understanding that it would be freely available to the public and that he strongly opposed the introduction of such charges.116
Although Moore celebrated his eighty-eighth birthday in good spirits, his health deteriorated rapidly thereafter. His last outside visitors were Raymond and Gin Coxon, and he died at 2am on Sunday 31 August 1986 with his wife and daughter by his side. He was buried in St Thomas’s churchyard, Perry Green, and a Service of Thanksgiving was held at Westminster Abbey on 18 November.
News of Moore’s death was reported in the world’s media and revealed deference for the man and a respect for his contribution to sculpture as a medium – if not always a liking his artworks. Bernard Meadows was recorded in the Times as stating that ‘his impact was like that of Picasso. It was not that he affected the style of sculpture, but it was his attitude of serious dedication that created a climate in which art could be taken seriously’. Tate Director Alan Bowness claimed, ‘Not even Michelangelo, not even Rodin, ever enjoyed such an audience. He was a very great man and his sculpture will never be forgotten’.117 However, while many of Moore’s obituaries focused on his achievements of the 1930s and 1940s, his global fame, or the ease with which his reclining figures echoed the rolling English countryside,118 John Spurling writing in the New Statesman argued that Moore’s legacy was more complicated:
When people objected ... to the holes, minimal heads, breaks, asymmetries, weird protuberances and all the rest of the characteristic Moore repertoire, it was because they recognised immediately that these were not just formal devices and explorations of sculptural space, but also expressions of damage and disturbance.
Most of the obituarists have stressed Moore’s humanism and those who are keen to convert the doubters always play up the optimism, nobility, tranquillity and rolling landscape connotations in his work. But the deformities and disruptions are really more obvious and, if we ever lose sight of them altogether, we shall have turned Moore and his great melting pot of forms into the wrong sort of monument.119


A.H. Maude (ed.), The History of the 47th London Division 1914–19, London 1922, cited in Roger Berthoud, The Life of Henry Moore, 1987, 2nd edition, London 2003, p.28.
Donald Hall, Henry Moore: The Life and Work of a Great Sculptor, London 1966, p.37.
Henry Moore cited in Berthoud 2003, p.34.
Moore cited in Berthoud 2003, p.35.
Raymond Coxon cited in Berthoud 2003, p.36, from an interview undertaken in February 1983.
See Adrian Glew, ‘“Blue Spiritual Sounds”: Kandinsky and the Sadlers, 1911–16’, Burlington Magazine, vol.139, no.1134, September 1997, pp.600–15.
Hilary Diaper, ‘Sadler’s Gift’, in Hilary Diaper (ed.), The Sadler Gift 1923, Leeds 2012, p.21.
Moore cited in Donald Carroll, The Donald Carroll Interviews, London 1973, p.35, reprinted in Alan Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershot 2002, p.44.
Henry Moore cited in John Hedgecoe (ed.), Henry Spencer Moore, London 1968, p.33.
See ‘Reginald Thomas Cotterill ARCA’, Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851–1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011 http://sculpture.gla.ac.uk/view/person.php?id=msib5_1203524682, accessed 29 July 2013.
Berthoud 2003, p.44.
Henry Moore, letter to Jocelyn Horner, 29 October 1921, Henry Moore Institute Archive, Leeds.
Henry Moore cited in John Russell, Henry Moore, London 1968, p.22.
Berthoud 2003, p.49.
Ian Dejardin, ‘Catalogue’, in Henry Moore at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, exhibition catalogue, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London 2004, p.37.
See John and Vera Russell, ‘Conversations with Henry Moore’, Sunday Times, 17 December 1961, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, pp.47, 230.
Moore’s first visit to Paris is often listed as occurring in 1923, as in David Sylvester (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 1: Complete Sculpture 1921–48, 1957, revised edn, London 1988, p.xxxviii, but more recent scholarship has proved that the trip took place in 1922 (see Wilkinson 2002, p.49).
See Wilkinson 2002 pp.49–50. Whitsun is the seventh Sunday after Easter, which in 1922 fell on 4 June. The Monday following Whitsun was a Bank Holiday until 1971.
Henry Moore cited in John Hedgecoe (ed.), Henry Moore: My Ideas, Inspiration and Life as an Artist, London 1986, pp.150–1.
Coxon was to move out of the studio on the event of his marriage to Edna Ginesi in 1926.
Moore’s report is reproduced in Hedgecoe 1968, pp.34–5.
Moore cited in Hall 1966, p.59.
Berthoud 2003, p.71.
Henry Moore cited in John James Sweeney, ‘Henry Moore’, Partisan Review, March–April 1947, pp.180, 182, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.54.
Henry Moore, letter to Cecila Sempill [neé Dunbar Kilburn], 26 August 1927, Tate Archive TGA 8424/69.
Henry Moore cited in John and Vera Russell, ‘Conversations with Henry Moore’, Sunday Times, 24 December 1961, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.54.
See Alexander Davis, ‘Henry Moore’s Library: A Commentary’, in Alexander Davis (ed.), Henry Moore Bibliography. Volume 5: Index 1986–1991, Much Hadham 1994, p.89.
See Wilkinson 2002, p.54.
Anon., ‘Art Exhibition: Henry Moore’, Times, 26 January 1928, p.10.
Anon., ‘Yorkshire Miner’s Artist-Son’, Yorkshire Evening Post, 30 January 1928, press cutting, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
Berthoud 2003, p.95.
Moore cited in Hall 1966, p.65.
Herbert Read, ‘A Nest of Gentle Artists’, Apollo, September 1962, pp.536–40. For discussion on the interactions of this group of artists see also Moore: Hepworth: Nicholson: A Gentle Nest of Artists in the 1930s, exhibition catalogue, Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, Norwich 2009.
Anon., ‘Epstein’s Protégé’, Sheffield Independent, 11 April 1931, press cutting, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
Our Art Critic, ‘Cult of Ugliness Triumphant’, Morning Post, 11 April 1931, press cutting, 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 Berthoud 2003, p.112.
Ibid., p.123.
John Skeaping, Drawn from Life, London, 1977, pp.91–2.
Berthoud 2003, p.126.
See Charles Harrison, English Art and Modernism, 1981, revised edn, New Haven 1994.
Douglas Cooper, letter to Wells Coates, 24 July 1934, Tate Archive, TGA 9120/59–105.
Berthoud 2003, p.183. Manson’s quote given was cited by Sainsbury during an interview undertaken by Berthoud in May 1983.
Nigel Vaux Halliday, More Than A Bookshop: Zwemmers and Art in the Twentieth Century, London 1991, p.212.
Anthony Blunt, ‘Baroque and Modern’, Spectator, 1 February 1935, press cutting, Henry Moore Foundation.
Henry J. Seldis, Henry Moore in America, New York 1973, p.36.
Henry Moore, statement in Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Arts Centre, Folkestone 1983, unpaginated, cited in Berthoud 2003, p.143.
Henry Moore, statement in Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Arts Centre, Folkestone 1983, unpaginated, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, pp.58–9.
Henry Moore, ‘A Sculptor Speaks’, Listener, 18 August 1937, pp.338–40, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.195.
Berthoud 2003, p.165.
Moore 1937, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.195.
Berthoud 2003, p.172.
Henry Moore, letter to Arthur Sale, 8 October 1938, Imperial War Museum Archive, Art.IWM ART 16597 2 a-b. Full transcript available at http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/19444, accessed 24 June 2013.
Hedgecoe 1968, p.134.
Henry Moore, letter to Jane Wade, 13 September 1954, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.94.
Henry Moore cited in Church of S. Matthew, Northampton, 1893–1943, Northampton 1943, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, pp.267–8.
Trustees’ Correspondence with Henry Moore, Tate Public Records TG 1/6/36.
Russell 1968, p.115.
Berthoud 2003, p.233.
Edward Alden Jewell, New York Times, 18 December 1946, press cutting, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
Berthoud 2003, p.250.
Henry Moore, letter to Arthur Sale, 31 August 1948, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
Jasper Ridley, letter to Anthony Bevir, 1 July 1949, Tate Public Records TG 1/6/36.
Anthony Bevin, letter to Henry Moore, 12 July 1949, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
See Trustees’ Correspondence: Henry Moore, Tate Public Records TG 1/6/36.
Henry Moore, letter to Kenneth and Jane Clark, 28 February 1951, Tate Archive TGA 8812/1/3/2117.
See Lilian Somerville, letter to The Representative, British Council in Athens, 5 April 1951, Tate Archive TGA 9712/2/48.
W.G. Tatham, The Representative, British Council in Athens, letter to the Lectures Department, British Council, London, 17 March 1951, Tate Archive TGA 9712/2/48.
Hedgecoe 1968, p.188.
A.D.B. Sylvester, ‘Festival Sculpture’, Studio, vol.142, no.702, September 1951 p.75.
The film is available to view at http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/henrymoore/, accessed 24 June 2013.
Herbert Read, ‘New Aspects of British Sculpture’, in Exhibition of Works by Sutherland, Wadsworth, Adams, Armitage, Butler, Chadwick, Clarke, Meadows, Moore, Paolozzi, Turnbull.Organised by the British Council for the XXVI Biennale, Venice, exhibition catalogue, Venice Biennale, Venice 1952, unpaginated.
Berthoud 2003, p.287.
Ibid., p.288.
Henry Moore, letter to Herbert Read, 7 August 1956, cited in Berthoud 2003, pp.305–6.
Minutes of a Meeting of the Trustees of the Tate Gallery, 16 May 1957, Tate Public Records TG 4/2/742/2.
John Rothenstein, letter to Henry Moore, 18 July 1958, Tate Public Records TG 4/2/742/2.
See, for example, Reg Butler (Tate T00263), Anthony Caro (Tate T00264), Hubert Dalwood (Tate T00266), and Eduardo Paolozzi (Tate T00273).
Sir John Rothenstein, letter to Henry Moore, 29 May 1959, Tate Public Records TG 4/4/59/1.
Nevile Wallis, ‘Elemental Moore’, Observer, 27 November 1960, p.27.
Ibid, p.50.
Anthony Caro, ‘The Master Sculptor’, Observer, 27 November 1960, p.21.
As reported in Daily Telegraph, 23 October 1965, and cited in Berthoud 2003, p.348.
Sir John Rothenstein, letter to Henry Moore, 14 August 1964, Tate Archive TGA 8726/3/11.
Sir John Rothenstein, letter to Henry Moore, 18 September 1964, Tate Public Records TG 4/6/10/1.
See Alice Correia, ‘Critical Voices: Artists’ Responses to Moore’s Gift to Tate in 1967’, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/henry-moore/alice-correia-critical-voices-artists-responses-to-moores-gift-to-tate-in-1967-r1172242, accessed 30 June 2015
‘Letters to the Editor’, Times, 7 March 1967, cited in Berthoud 2003, p.374.
Alan G. Wilkinson, Henry Moore Remembered: The Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Toronto 1987, p.11.
Berthoud 2003, p.375.
See Alice Correia, ‘Critical Voices: Artists’ Responses to Moore’s Gift to Tate in 1967’, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/henry-moore/alice-correia-critical-voices-artists-responses-to-moores-gift-to-tate-in-1967-r1172242, accessed 30 June 2015
Valerie Ross, ‘The Wooing of Henry Moore’, Toronto Life, July 1975, p.11, cited in Berthoud 2003, p.526.
Berthoud 2003, p.379.
William McNeill, letter to Henry Moore, 14 November 1963, photocopy, Tate Archive TGA 20011/11. The letter was also published in David H. Katzive, ‘Henry Moore’s Nuclear Energy: The Genesis of a Monument’, Art Journal, vol.32, no.3, Spring 1973, p.284.
Henry Moore, letter to William McNeill, 2 December 1963, photocopy, Tate Archive TGA 20011/11.
Anon., ‘The Time Diary’, Times, 18 July 1968, p.8.
Norman Reid, letter to Robert Sainsbury, 28 October 1968, Tate Public Records TG 4/6/10/2.
Henry Moore, as cited in Wilkinson 1987, p.12.
Deed of Agreement, Tate Archive TG/4/6/10/2.
Spalding 1998, pp.148–9.
Berthoud 2003, p.417.
John Thompson, Sunday Telegraph, 14 May 1972, press cutting, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
Guy Brett, ‘Henry Moore in Florence’, Times, 20 May 1972, p.11.
Norman Reid, letter to Henry Moore, 11 November 1974, Tate Public Records TG 4/6/10/4.
William Packer, ‘Henry Moore’, Financial Times, 11 May 1977, Tate Archive, Henry Moore Press Cuttings 1974–5, file 4.
Henry Moore, letter to Norman Reid, 16 March 1978, Tate Public Records TG 4/6/10/4.
William Packer, ‘Henry Moore at Eighty’, Financial Times, 18 July 1978, p.13.
Stephen Spender, ‘Sculptor and Statues (Homage to Henry Moore)’, Times, 29 July 1978, p.12.
John McEwen, ‘Bone Idle’, Spectator, 15 July 1978, p.28.
Berthoud 2003, p.449.
Henry Moore, letter to Alan Bowness, 24 February 1986, Tate Public Records TG 4/2/742/5.
Nicholas Beeston, ‘Henry Moore Dies Aged 88 / Death of Leading British Sculptor’, Times, 1 September 1986, p.1.
See for example, Norbert Lynton, ‘Monumental Moore’, Guardian, 1 September 1986, p.11; William Packer, ‘Obituary: Henry Moore’, Financial Times, 1 September 1986, p.11; Paul Richard, ‘Putting the Landscape in Life’, Sydney Morning Herald, 2 September 1986, p.14.
John Spurling, ‘What Sort of Monument?’, New Statesman, 12 September 1986, pp.2–3.

How to cite

Alice Correia, ‘Biography’, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/henry-moore/alice-correia-biography-r1171900, accessed 01 March 2024.