Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity

ISBN 978-1-84976-391-2

Henry Moore OM, CH Falling Warrior 1956-7, cast c.1957-60

Falling Warrior is one of only six large-scale male figures created by Moore. Three of these male figures exist within family groups, while the remaining three, including Falling Warrior, present the male body as wounded and fragile. This sculpture illuminates Moore’s interest in ancient Greek sculpture while possibly alluding to the suffering caused by the Second World War.
Henry Moore OM, CH 1898–1986
Falling Warrior
1956–7, cast c.1957–60
650 x 1540 x 850 mm
Presented by the artist 1978
In an edition of 10 plus 1 artist’s copy


This sculpture depicts an almost life-size male figure positioned horizontally over a rectangular base. The figure holds a circular shield in his left hand, which is drawn up towards his head, and appears to be suspended in motion, hovering just above the base. The sculpture is attached to the base at three points: the left heel, the right hand, and the shield.
Although the figure is recognisably a human male, Falling Warrior is not represented naturalistically. The arms and legs are particularly thin and the head is disproportionately small when compared to the larger, bulbous belly and buttocks. When seen from the head and the foot of the base, the figure seems to twist at the waist, so that the left shoulder and the right hip are both higher than their counterparts (fig.1). In addition, the sculpture has not been positioned squarely within the limits of the base; instead the body is curved, with the head and the feet placed towards the rear of the base, and the hips positioned towards the front.
Falling Warrior 1956–7, cast c.1957–60 (view from head)
Tate T02278
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Detail of head of Falling Warrior 1956–7, cast c.1957–60
Tate T02278
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved

The head is represented by an oval disk, which is pierced by a single hole that creates a short tunnel linking the left and right sides of the face (fig.2). This hole appears to denote the eyes of the figure, but no other facial features have been represented apart from a slight upwards curve that distinguishes the chin from the neck.
The neck leads to an undulating upper chest, the left side of which swells while the right side dips to create a shallow hollow. From these differing forms the stomach swells to a rounded peak, which dips sharply to the figure’s genitalia. Two nipples and a navel have been denoted by round recessions on the chest and stomach and a penis has been modelled. The downward momentum of the sculpture is achieved through the enlargement of the belly and buttocks, which hang low, hovering just about the surface of the base. The weight of the sculpture seems to have amassed in these large curved areas. The heavy middle of the figure is accentuated by the slender limbs, a contrast that heightens the sense that the figure is falling, as the title suggests.
From the left side of the chest, the left shoulder appears to be in an anatomically incorrect position, and the left arm, which is raised horizontally above the head, seems to be impossibly twisted. Nonetheless, the thin left arm extends to the hand, which is holding the outside of a round, curved shield. The inside of the shield creates a protective concave hollow for the figure’s head.
The bony right shoulder seems to protrude from under the figure’s skin and extends downwards to a thin arm, which is bent at the elbow. The forearm extends on a slight downwards diagonal and terminates in a clenched hand, which rests on the base, as though softening the fall.
The knees of both legs are bent and drawn towards the body; the right leg is suspended in the air and the right knee is the highest point of the sculpture (fig.3). The frontal planes of the right and left thighs are fairly straight, while the undersides have a slight curve where they meet the lower buttocks. From each knee the calves of the legs extend to narrow ankles and heels. The shins of both legs create a slight ridge down the front of the calves. The feet widen at the toes, which are denoted on each foot by incised lines, but which have not been individuated separately. The heel of the left foot rests on the base while the rest of the foot is lifted away from it.
Falling Warrior 1956–7, cast c.1957–60 (view of legs)
Tate T02278
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Detail of polished high points of Falling Warrior 1956–7, cast c.1957–60
Tate T02278
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved

The base colour of the sculpture is a very dark brown-black, on top of which green and brown shades have been applied. These green and brown colours have been used to highlight and accentuate certain areas of the sculpture. For example, the ridge of the face, the right shoulder and the top of the belly all have a golden-brown shine to highlight these exposed outer areas (fig.4). In contrast, the underside of the left arm and the inner right thigh are tinged with green. The surface of the bronze is highly textured with lines and scratches. In some instances, such as on the shins and the right forearm, the lines run along the limb accentuating its length and suggest directional movement.
Before embarking on the construction of the full-size sculpture, Moore first created a small maquette in plaster in order to test the three-dimensional design. It is probable that Moore made this model in his maquette studio in the grounds of his home, Hoglands, at Perry Green in Hertfordshire. Although the original plaster maquette has not survived, it was cast in a bronze edition, probably in late 1956 or early 1957. Maquette for Fallen Warrior 1956 (Tate T06824; fig.5) presents a supine male warrior with a shield, but there are significant differences between this work and the final Falling Warrior: in the smaller maquette the figure’s body is in contact with the base (which has two tiers) and thus depicts the moment of the body’s impact with the ground, hence the past participle ‘fallen’ in the title. Furthermore, the shield has been placed next to the feet of the figure in Maquette for Fallen Warrior, whereas in the larger Falling Warrior it is positioned near the figure’s head.
Henry Moore 'Maquette for Fallen Warrior' 1956, cast c.1956–7
Henry Moore
Maquette for Fallen Warrior 1956, cast c.1956–7
Tate T06824
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photograph of an early stage in the creation of the full-size plaster version of Falling Warrior, c.1956
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive

However, it was from this small maquette that Falling Warrior was nonetheless developed, and the next stage in Moore’s creative process was to enlarge the plaster maquette to its full size. A series of at least five black and white photographs, probably taken by Moore himself, document the development of the plaster sculpture from different angles and have been published in a number of books to illustrate the evolution of the work (see fig.6).1 In conversation with Tate researcher Richard Calvocoressi on 12 December 1980, Moore reflected that these photographs ‘often appeared more directly expressive of his intentions than the finished sculpture’.2 In his 1981 catalogue entry for the work, Calvocoressi explained that ‘there were occasions such as this when he [Moore] would have liked to have taken a cast of the work in progress’.3
In order to make the full-size plaster Moore first constructed an armature in wire and wood. In 1960 Moore explained, ‘You need an armature because, with plaster sculpture, you have to build on something or you’d have a great big solid piece of plaster which is unhandleable ... so one makes an armature in wood with, perhaps chicken wire roughly to shape’.4 This armature would form the basic shape of the sculpture and act as an internal support. The armature was then wrapped in lengths of scrim, a bandage like fabric, which had loose webbing to allow the plaster to soak through. Layers of plaster would be applied to the fabric and, once dry, Moore could then begin to model the forms and shapes of the sculpture using the original, smaller maquette as a guide. According to Moore, ‘The advantage of using plaster is that it can be both built up, as in modelling, or cut down, in the way you carve stone or wood’.5
Henry Moore in his studio with full-size plaster version of Falling Warrior 1956–7
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: John Hedgecoe
A photograph of Moore in his studio shows the completed full-size plaster version of the sculpture, which retains the composition of the original maquette with the figure lying on the ground with the shield at his feet (fig.7).6 This photograph indicates that the subsequent changes to the composition – moving the shield to the head and suspending the figure above the base – must have been made after the completion of this full-size plaster. Moore accounted for these changes, stating:
In the Falling Warrior sculpture I wanted a figure that was still alive. The pose of the first maquette was that of a completely dead figure and so I altered it to make the action that of a figure in the act of falling, and the shield became a support for the warrior, emphasising the dramatic moment that precedes death.7
Having decided that he wanted to change the composition of the warrior, it seems unlikely that Moore would have started the full-size model again from scratch. Although not an easy job, it is probable that Moore adjusted and reconfigured the existing plaster; the right arm of the bronze seems to have the same shape as the left arm of the plaster. If Moore did swap the arms of the sculpture over, this would explain the strange twisted shoulders and arms of the final bronze. Moore’s statement also suggests that he had not intended to create two different warrior sculptures, and that the titles of the maquette and the larger bronze were probably given retrospectively in order to distinguish between the two.
Having settled on the composition and completed his recomposed full-size plaster, Moore employed the Fiorini Art Bronze Foundry in London to cast Falling Warrior. According to records held at the Henry Moore Foundation the bronze edition was cast between 1957 and 1960.8 Moore had previously commissioned Fiorini to cast his Family Group 1949 (Tate N06004), and although the foundry had had problems casting this large sculpture, Moore nonetheless continued to use them throughout the 1950s.
It is likely that this sculpture was cast using the lost wax technique, which involved first creating a mould of the plaster sculpture into which molten wax could be poured to create a perfect wax replica of the sculpture. After hardening, the wax replica would then be encased in a hard refractory material and placed in a kiln. Tubular channels within the casing would allow the wax to drain away when it melted, leaving a hollow cavity into which molten bronze would be poured. For the finished bronze sculpture to be flawless the bronze had to be poured in one go. Once the bronze had cooled and hardened the casing could be removed to reveal the finished sculpture.9
After casting at the foundry the bronze sculpture would probably have been returned to Moore so that he could check the quality of the casting and make decisions about the patination. A patina refers to the surface colour of a sculpture and is usually achieved by applying chemical solutions to the pre-heated bronze sculpture. In 1960 Moore explained:
I like working on all my bronzes after they come back from the foundry. A new cast to begin with is just like a new-minted penny, with a kind of slight tarnished effect on it. Sometimes this is right and suitable for a sculpture, but not always. Bronze is very sensitive to chemicals, and bronze naturally in the open air (particularly near the sea) will turn with time and the action of the atmosphere to a beautiful green. But sometimes one can’t wait for nature to have its go at the bronze, and you can speed it up by treating the bronze with different acids which will produce different effects. Some will turn the bronze black, others will turn it green, others will turn it red.10
According to curator Julie Summers, Moore sought to ‘produce a unity between patina and form’ in his sculptures, so that the colours complimented the shapes on which they were applied.11 Moore noted that when working on his plasters he normally had a preconceived idea of what colour the sculpture would eventually take:
I usually have an idea, as I make the plaster, whether I intend it to be a bark or a light bronze, and what colour it is going to be. When it comes back from the foundry I do the patination and this sometimes comes off happily, though sometimes you can’t repeat what you’ve done other times. The mixture of bronze may be different, the temperature to which you heat the bronze before put the acid on to it may be different. It is a very exciting but tricky and uncertain thing, this patination of bronze.12
According to Summers Moore did not regard the difficultly of replicating patinas as a problem. Moreover, she suggested that ‘a variation in colour within the edition also represented an element of choice for the potential client’.13 Although the dark brown-black base colour of Tate’s Falling Warrior is similar to the cast held in the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., a golden-brown patina has been applied to the high points of the Tate’s version to give a polished effect. Tate’s example, which has rarely been exhibited outdoors, has also been treated with a green patina, which gives the impression of natural weathering. However, this artificial effect contrasts sharply with the vivid sea-green patina of the cast displayed outside at Clare College, Cambridge, which has developed over time.
A cast of Falling Warrior was first exhibited in June 1958 at Marlborough Fine Art in London in an exhibition titled Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Masters. It was the first time Moore had exhibited at this commercial gallery but a month later he joined its stable of artists, which included Graham Sutherland and Francis Bacon. An unnamed critic reviewed the exhibition for the Times and under the banner ‘Mr. Moore’s New Sculpture: A Warrior To Be Proud Of’, noted that although the pose of the sculpture was akin to Moore’s regular subject of the reclining figure, in this instance ‘the whole open and vulnerable length of the body hangs suspended along the ground in the second before crumpling in ignominy and defeat’.14 Similarly, in his review of the exhibition, critic Alan Bowness wrote that ‘the outstanding contribution ... is that of Henry Moore the only English artist to be found in the Marlborough pantheon. He shows four bronzes, all on the Warrior theme. In the most important, the Falling Warrior of 1956–57, Mr. Moore makes a partial return to the reclining figure to create an image of impressive power, and beauty’.15 It is perhaps indicative of Moore’s acclaim at this time that discussion of this single sculpture dominated a review of an exhibition that also included work by Georges Braque, Edvard Munch, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Paul Klee.
Although the exhibition at Marlborough Fine Art was not referred to, in July 1958 the critic David Sylvester also singled out Falling Warrior for attention in an article published in the Listener. Under the title ‘A New Bronze by Henry Moore’ Sylvester observed that Falling Warrior marked a significant sea change in Moore’s approach to movement and the expression of muscular energy. Whereas earlier female reclining figures, he suggested, had been self-contained, serene and immovable, reminiscent of mountainous landscapes, ‘“Falling Warrior” is a complete break with all this. It is a convulsive work, in which energy is straining to break through’.16 Sylvester noted that the sculpture was at first disturbing because it was neither completely naturalistic nor totally abstract, but combined both modes of depiction. He went on to suggest that while the marriage of these two opposing forms of representation would usually result in an unsuccessful artwork, in Falling Warrior Moore used this duality to emphasise the tactile, muscular expression of the sculpture. By enlarging and distorting the belly and buttocks extra weight is given, while the thinness of the arms serves to emphasise the brittleness of bone. Meanwhile the naturalistic elements embedded the figure in the realm of the real. Sylvester proposed that the sculpture is best understood in terms of:
the experience within our own body of muscular stresses and strains ... So that, as we stand there and look at it we feel a dislocation in our torsos, we feel our backs hit the ground, our legs thrown helplessly in the air. The empathy we suffer is violent, convulsive, and seems to strain our muscles to the utmost limit.17
Falling Warrior is one of only six large-scale male forms made by Moore. Three of these male figures exist within groups: Family Group 1949 (Tate N06004), King and Queen 1952–3 (Tate T00228) and Harlow Family Group 1954–5 (Harlow Council). The remaining three are warriors: Warrior with Shield 1953–4 (a cast of which is at Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery); Falling Warrior 1956–7; and Goslar Warrior 1973–4 (Park Hinter der Kaiserpfalz, Goslar).
At the time Falling Warrior was created, Moore rarely made preparatory drawings for specific sculptures, preferring instead to sketch general ideas and work directly in plaster, utilising his accumulated knowledge of bodily forms to make preparatory three-dimensional maquettes. Nonetheless, it is possible to identify drawings that illuminate the evolution of Moore’s warrior sculptures. In particular, a sketch titled Figure Studies 1955–6 (fig.8) contains two pen and ink drawings each depicting a supine figure. With their raised arms and bent knees, the two sketches not only demonstrate that Moore was thinking about the prostrate figure in the mid-1950s, but also recall his earlier war-time drawings.
Henry Moore 'Figure Studies' 1955–6
Henry Moore
Figure Studies 1955–6
Private collection
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
Henry Moore 'Sleeping Positions' 1941
Henry Moore
Sleeping Positions 1941
The Henry Moore Foundation
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Michel Muller, Henry Moore Foundation Archive

Sleeping Positions 1941 (fig.9) was drawn during the Second World War while Moore was working as an Official War Artist. It is part of his series of Shelter Drawings commissioned by the War Artists Committee, and depicts people – predominantly mothers and children – taking refuge from German aerial bombardment in the tunnels of the London Underground. However, the drawing differs from Moore’s other Shelter Drawings in which sleeping bodies are depicted tightly packed within the claustrophobic spaces. Presented in what appears to be an outside landscape, Sleeping Positions features eight lying figures, in various poses, each with different limbs covered and uncovered with blankets and illustrates how Moore was developing his repertoire of prostrate bodies. While the figure in the lower left of the page is presented with breasts, the other figures appear not to be gender specific. According to the art historian Frances Carey, the angular, twisted figures found in Sleeping Positions reappear in the later drawing Death of the Suitors 1944, itself a recognised precursor to Moore’s warrior series.18
Following the critical success of Moore’s Shelter Drawings, the critic Herbert Read suggested to the artist that he undertake a second commission from the War Artists Committee, this time depicting ‘Britain’s Army Underground’, the coal miners who ensured the regular supply of fuel for the nation during the Second World War. In 1947 Moore reflected that:
It was difficult, but something I am glad to have done. I have never willingly drawn male figures before – only as a student in college. Everything I had willingly drawn was female. But here, through these coal-mining drawings, I discovered the male figure and the qualities of the figure in action. As a sculptor I had previously believed only in static forms, that is forms in repose.19
In his coal mining drawings Moore undertook his first sustained examination of the male figure and became aware of the aesthetic and symbolic possibilities it presented, with particular regard for the figure in movement. The figure second from bottom on the left side of Miners at Work 1942 (fig.10) might be regarded as a graphic precursor to Moore’s sculpture: this figure is lying on his side, with his right arm lifted above his head. His twisted and curved body is tucked into a compact space and looking upwards he seems to be conscious that the roof could collapse. Kenneth Clark, who was Director of the National Gallery when he appointed Moore as an Official War Artist, later reflected that ‘such a figure as the fallen warrior would not have come into existence without the drawings of miners working on their backs’.20
Henry Moore 'Miners at Work' 1942
Henry Moore
Miners at Work 1942
Private collection
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Rodney Todd-White & Son, Henry Moore Foundation Archive
Henry Moore 'The Death of the Suitors' 1944
Henry Moore
The Death of the Suitors 1944
Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved

Moore’s The Death of the Suitors 1944 (fig.11) was one of a series of drawings created to illustrate Edward Sackville-West’s play The Rescue. The play was based on Homer’s Odyssey and Moore’s image depicts the aftermath of Odysseus’s rampage when, on returning home after fighting in the ten-year Trojan War, he kills the 108 suitors courting his wife Penelope. In 1970 the art critic Robert Melville regarded the male suitors in the drawing as studies for sculptures, suggesting that the violent scene ‘presents a fascinating spectacle of terracottas dying in a blood-red room’.21 Between 1949 and 1950 Moore also worked on lithographs for André Gide’s translation of Goethe’s Prometheus, itself based on Aeschylus’s ancient tragedy Prometheus Bound.22 The curator David Mitchinson has remarked that in these lithographs, as in The Death of the Suitors, ‘male flesh is perceived as being just as vulnerable as female’.23
The injured or traumatised male body was an infrequent but recurring subject in Moore’s work. Following his drawings of sleeping and dying figures of the 1940s, the painted plaster sculpture Reclining Warrior 1953 (fig.12), which was also cast in bronze, signals the start of Moore’s engagement with the male warrior subject in three-dimensional form. In 1955 Moore explained:
The idea for The Warrior came to me at the end of 1952 or very early in 1953. It was evolved from a pebble I found on the seashore in the summer of 1952, and which reminded me of the stump of a leg, amputated at the hip. Just as Leonardo says somewhere in his notebooks that a painter can find a battle scene in the lichen marks on a wall, so this gave me the start of The Warrior idea. First I added the body, leg and one arm and it became a wounded warrior, but first the figure was reclining.24
Moore then amended the orientation of Reclining Warrior, changing it from a horizontal to a seated position. In Moore’s opinion this amendment, with the addition of a shield, changed the sculpture ‘from an inactive pose into a figure which, though wounded, is still defiant’.25 This new version, Warrior with Shield 1953–4 (fig.13), was an exciting departure for Moore, who explained: ‘This sculpture is the first single and separate male figure that I have done in sculpture and carrying it out in its final large scale was almost like the discovery of a new subject matter; the bony, edgy, tense forms were a great excitement to make’.26
Henry Moore 'Reclining Warrior' 1953
Henry Moore
Reclining Warrior 1953
The Henry Moore Foundation
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
Henry Moore 'Warrior with Shield' 1953–4
Henry Moore
Warrior with Shield 1953–4
Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved

In late February 1951 Moore made his first and only visit to Greece to attend the opening of his solo exhibition at the Zappeion Gallery in Athens. Although as a student Moore had rejected classical Greek sculpture and the traditional aesthetic doctrines that he then believed it stood for, he was nonetheless excited by the prospect of visiting the country’s ancient sites. At the age of fifty-two, Moore was struck by the light of Greece and the theatricality of its ancient monuments. He wrote to Kenneth Clark stating, ‘the Acropolis is wonderful – more marvellous than ever I imagined – The Parthenon against a blue sky – the sunlight + the scale it gets against the distant mountains can’t be given by any photograph – It’s the greatest thrill I’ve ever had’.27 The trip had a profound effect on him and in an interview of 1961 Moore recalled:
Mycenae had a tremendous impact. I felt that I understood Greek tragedy and – well the whole idea of Greece – much, much more completely than ever before. And Delphi, though I did find it had a slight tough of theatricality, as if eagles were flying round to order, and Olympia, with the idyllic sense of lovely living that you get there, and of course the whole of the Acropolis. That too had something I hadn’t at all foreseen.28
Moore also acknowledged that ‘I think The Warrior [with Shield] has some Greek influence, not consciously wished for but perhaps the result of my visit to Athens and other parts of Greece in 1951’.29 While Moore was circumspect about the direct impact of the visit on his work, Herbert Read was more assertive. Of Warrior with Shield he stated ‘there is a distinct Hellenic note, and it is the direct result of a visit to Greece which the sculptor made in 1951’.30 Moore’s choice of subjects in the 1950s – draped reclining women and warriors with shields – are certainly variants of those found in ancient Greek art, prompting art historian Roger Cardinal to describe them as ‘a sequence of works of a decidedly Greek tinge’.31 That Moore’s warriors of the 1950s are armed with a curved shield places them beyond or outside of the contemporary moment in which they were made; the shield, with the titular use of the term ‘warrior’ rather than ‘soldier’ suggests that the figures belong to the past. The scholar Will Grohmann also identified the origins for Moore’s series of warriors – Warrior with Shield, Falling Warrior and Maquette for Fallen Warrior – as stemming from his interest in classical Greek sculpture and mythology.32 He argued that the three-dimensional warriors may have developed from Moore’s engagement, albeit indirectly, with the texts of Homer and Aeschylus. For example, Grohmann described Warrior with Shield thus: ‘He is only a warrior, the prototype of the warrior, who has been defeated and mutilated in a murderous battle such as Homer sings of, who has lost his left arm and left leg and right foot, who has no weapon left but his shield, behind which he hides the remnant of his pitiable existence’.33 Following Grohmann’s interpretation, Cardinal suggested that it was Homer’s Iliad, rather than his Odyssey, which gave rise to Moore’s warrior imagery. Moore is known to have read and appreciated the Iliad with its accounts of ‘brave swordsmen succumbing to horrendous battle-wounds’.34 Grohmann concluded that ‘although there is nothing epic in the Falling Warrior, it contains the essence of the Homeric tale’.35
Fallen Warrior from the east pediment of the Temple of Aphaia c.490–480 BC
Glyptothek, Munich
In his discussion of Warrior with Shield, Herbert Read remarked that the sculpture ‘is reminiscent of the archaic bronzes of the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. ... [but] This is not an imitation of a Greek prototype; it is a new icon expressing a modern consciousness of the Greek mystery, of the human rooted in the chthonic, of the sublime struggling to expression in a pagan death’.36 Although Falling Warrior cannot be directly linked to a single example of Greek sculpture, and Moore may have drawn on any number of examples when he made it, Cardinal nonetheless drew attention to the Fallen Warrior from the Temple of Aphaia on the island of Aegina (fig.14), which depicts a fallen male warrior holding onto his round shield with his left hand while pressing downwards into the ground with his right hand as though to break his fall. For Cardinal this ancient Fallen Warrior (now in the Glyptothek, Munich) is exemplary of the type of imagery Moore would have been exposed to during his trip to Greece, and it is probable that Moore was familiar with this sculpture from reproductions. Moore’s Falling Warrior seems to replicate the tension and downward motion of the Greek example, as well as its twisted and wounded body.
Figure of Dionysos from the east pediment of the Parthenon c.438–432 BC
British Museum, London
© Trustees of the British Museum
However, even before his visit to Greece Moore had studied the Parthenon marbles housed in the British Museum. An illustration of one of these sculptures – the nude figure of Dionysos from 438–423 BC – was included in the ‘comparative material’ section of the catalogue to his 1968 Tate exhibition (fig.15). In the same catalogue the exhibition’s curator David Sylvester suggested that Moore’s reclining figures could be understood in relation to the ‘Mediterranean tradition’.37 The sculpture of Dionysos was of particular interest to Moore and in 1981 a series of three photographic illustrations of it were included in the publication Henry Moore at the British Museum. For this book Moore selected and discussed artworks from the British Museum’s collection that had influenced him during his career. Moore stated that:
The sculptor who did this had a thorough understanding of the human figure, and shows so realistically the differences between the slackness of flesh and the hardness of the bone beneath it. I knew, as a young sculptor, that I had to learn all I could about the human figure, but I rather took the Greeks for granted and didn’t realise till much later how deep was their observation of human form. But this piece always attracted me, perhaps because of my interest in reclining figures.38
Cardinal suggested that the broken and fragmentary nature of the Greek examples in the British Museum and elsewhere was a particular inspiration to Moore. As demonstrated in the incomplete bodies of Reclining Warrior and Warrior with Shieldfragmentariness is itself an integral part of Moore’s creative vocabulary’.39 This damage to the body may have resonated with Moore when making his wounded warriors.
Considerations of Moore’s warrior sculptures of the 1950s in relation to his interest in classical sculpture and his 1951 trip to Greece have dominated critical discussions of these works. Such was Grohmann’s conviction that Moore’s Falling Warrior and the two other warrior sculptures were based on Greek sculptural traditions that in 1960 he refuted alternative visual references for these works – principally Moore’s experiences of war. Grohmann stated that Moore’s decision to create a series of warriors in the 1950s ‘cannot be explained by his war experience in London or the re-awakening of dreamlike memories of the First World War. It is certainly not the remoteness in time that makes this unlikely, but the figure of the “Warrior” itself, which has nothing to do with the anonymous, technological mass slaughter’.40
However, in 1955 Moore noted in relation to Warrior with Shield that ‘The figure may be emotionally connected (as one critic has suggested) with one’s feelings and thoughts about England during the crucial and early part of the last war. The position of the shield and its angle gives protection from above’.41 In 1970 the critic Robert Melville stated that Moore’s warrior theme ‘discloses an overt concern with the miseries of war’.42 This interpretation was echoed by art historian Christa Lichtenstern in 2008 who suggested that not only can the warrior subject be directly linked to slaughtered soldiers of the Second World War, but that Moore’s reference to the shield giving ‘protection from above’ alluded to the aerial bombardments suffered by cities including Coventry, Dresden, and Hiroshima. The composition of Falling Warrior similarly suggests an attack from above. Given that Moore’s supine warriors may have originated from his Shelter Drawings and those made for Edward Sackville-West’s The Rescue, it may be possible to view Moore’s warriors of the 1950s as extensions of and developments on his war-time imagery. Tate curator Chris Stephens has also suggested that Moore’s depiction of a falling soldier may have some relation to Robert Capa’s famous photograph Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936 1936, first published in September 1936 in the French magazine Vu.43 It is known that Moore was sympathetic to the loyalist cause during the Spanish Civil War and it is likely that he knew of the image by the time he was working on Falling Warrior.44
In 1979 the filmmaker and writer John Read also found meaning for Falling Warrior in the Second World War and its aftermath. But rather than simply identifying the source of Moore’s imagery as stemming from his accumulated memories of war, Read suggested that Falling Warrior was also a comment on war. For Read the sculpture
can be made to correspond to a development in public feeling. It represents a complete reversal of the Greek ideal of martial virility and manhood. This man is no longer a hero. The sculpture bears an aura of pathos. There was, at least in Western culture, a profound revulsion against the military spirit and the futility of battle. In England this general sense of disillusionment was forcefully expressed in John Osborne’s play, Look Back in Anger. There were no proud causes left worth dying for.45
In a television programme titled England’s Henry Moore, first broadcast on Channel 4 on 21 September 1988, the Marxist literary critic and filmmaker Anthony Barnett proposed that many of the subjects and forms of Moore’s work may be attributed to his experiences during the First World War. Moore served as a gunner in the battle of Cambrai in late 1917; he was one of fifty-two survivors from his battalion of 400. During the attack Moore suffered gas poisoning and was hospitalised for three months. Obliquely referencing these experiences, in 1974 Kenneth Clark wrote that ‘the deep, disturbing well from which emerged his finest drawings and sculpture was never referred to and no one meeting him could have guessed at its existence’.46 Barnett, and subsequently the curators Jeremy Lewison and Chris Stephens, noted this aporia, suggesting that Moore’s memories of warfare and the sight of fallen, mutilated bodies permeated much of his work.47
Moore rarely explained his work with reference to contemporary events, preferring instead for sculptures such as Falling Warrior to stand as ahistorical symbols of and for a shared human condition. According to David Mitchinson:
Moore’s treatment of male subjects followed a clear pattern. In sculpture, as in his drawings and lithographs, they were never aggressive, militaristic, or bombastic ... All three of Moore’s warriors have shields, a classic item of defence, but no weapons of attack such as swords or spears. The shields when viewed as a traditional form of protection can be compared to the helmets in the helmet heads, or the exterior elements of the internal/external forms – hard defensive barriers safeguarding what lies beneath.48
In light of Mitchinson’s observations, Falling Warrior may be regarded not as an updated reworking of a classical subject, or a representation of the suffering caused by the Second World War, but rather as a more generalised depiction and reminder of the fragility of human life. In 1977 the compiler of Moore’s catalogue raisonné, Alan Bowness, observed that ‘the extraordinary impact of the Falling Warrior of 1956–7 ... derives from the half-conscious connection we immediately make between his fall and the idea of being ourselves in the same situation’.49 Moore’s recognition that tragedy could befall anyone at any time was perhaps reinforced during his visit to the archaeological site of Pompeii in 1954. Here Moore witnessed the consequences of a natural catastrophe – the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 – which buried the Roman town in volcanic ash. During his visit Moore was particularly intrigued by the plaster casts of preserved corpses lying on the ground, which he photographed from various angles (fig.16). Caught at the moment of their death these casts show the vulnerability of the body and Falling Warrior recalls the poses of these tragic figures.
Plaster cast corpse at Pompeii 1954
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Henry Moore
Auguste Rodin 'The Martyr' 1899, cast 1917
Auguste Rodin
The Martyr 1899, cast 1917
Musée Rodin, Paris

In discussions of Falling Warrior very few commentators have deviated from the triumvirate of Moore’s interest in classical Greek sculpture and mythology, the memory of war, and the fragility of humanity. However, in 1968 the critic John Russell proposed an additional source and interpretation. He suggested that ‘The Falling Warrior adopts ... a pose that in another context might signify the extremes of sexual fulfillment: and the fulfillment, what is more, of a beautiful woman. This element of sexual ambiguity heightens the strangeness [of the sculpture] which does not, in any case, have anything to do with Greece. Moore here seems to be close to Rodin’.50 In the 1968 edition of Russell’s book a photograph of Falling Warrior is positioned opposite an image of Auguste Rodin’s The Martyr 1899 (fig.17).51 Rodin’s sculpture presents a bony, awkward, female figure lying on her left side, with her left arm falling limply off the edge of the base on which the sculpture is positioned. The figure’s right leg and left foot are suspended in the air, as if caught in the act of falling. The Martyr has been interpreted as being symbolic of the agony and ecstasy of love, as though wounded by love but nonetheless sexually fulfilled.52 The formal similarities between Falling Warrior and Rodin’s The Martyr probably encouraged Russell’s interpretation of Moore’s sculpture, despite and because Moore included a penis in his figurative representation. As art historian Norbert Lynton has observed, Moore generally ‘eschewed sexual motifs in his sculpture’ and sought to avoid ‘exciting thoughts of sexual activity or potentialities in his sculpture’.53 The inclusion of male genitals in Falling Warrior was unusual in Moore’s work and the presence of a penis may well have encouraged the sexualised readings he usually shunned.
Tate’s cast of Falling Warrior was exhibited in Moore’s mid-career exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, in 1960. The exhibition was generally well received in the press, with the critic David Thompson declaring in the Times that:
the quite extraordinary power and authority of the finest pieces in the exhibition exist in a sort of loneliness and silence, withdrawn from the madding crowd. This in itself is one of the many paradoxes inherent in the appeal of Moore’s art. As often as it retreats from immediate human contact and sympathy, it solicits them by its strong sense of pathos.54
Although by the time of the exhibition Moore was recognised as one of Britain’s foremost artists, responses to the show also revealed disenchantment with Moore’s aspirations to convey universal truths about humanity. In his review of the exhibition published in Art International, the critic Lawrence Alloway suggested that the sculptures on display at the Whitechapel were ‘an awkward repertoire of heroic gestures’.55 While Alloway noted that Moore’s earlier carvings developed the unique qualities of his raw materials, at the Whitechapel, ‘the human attributes of pose or anatomical detail seem to grow neither out of a full mastery of the human body nor out of an intimate response to the material itself’.56 Alloway then went on to compare the exhibition to the visual spectacle of the opera, where the nuances of each individual character is sublimated into the whole: ‘Similarly with Moore’s figures of the past decade: their gestures and poses seem less than heroic within the heroic massing. (One is somewhat reminded of the helplessness of di Chirico’s gladiators in his arena paintings of the 20s)’.57 Alloway proposed that the problem of Moore’s work, and the reason that his attempted depiction of heroism failed in works such as Falling Warrior, was that it displayed a conscious attempt to convey a comprehensive humanist sentiment. ‘Obviously out of the highest motives,’ Alloway remarked, ‘Moore is hoping to give his public sculptures a worthy message, a stirring content’. Yet the critic suggested that it was impossible to speak of universals, that a person can only speak of their own time and place: ‘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’.58
Falling Warrior 1956–7, cast c.1957–60 on display in the exhibition The Henry Moore Gift, Tate Gallery in 1978
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Following its inclusion in the 1960 Whitechapel exhibition Falling Warrior remained in Moore’s personal collection and was included in a number of national and international exhibitions before Moore presented it to the Tate Gallery in 1978 as part of the Henry Moore Gift. The Gift comprised thirty-six sculptures in bronze, marble and plaster and was exhibited in its entirety alongside Tate’s existing collection of Moore’s work in an exhibition celebrating the artist’s eightieth birthday, which opened in June 1978. 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’.59 Falling Warrior was included in the exhibition and displayed in gallery nineteen (fig.18). The exhibition was attended by over 20,500 people and nearly 11,000 copies of the catalogue were sold.60 At the close of the exhibition in late August 1978 the Director of Tate Norman Reid reflected in a letter to Moore’s daughter that although he was sad to see the exhibition come to an end ‘we have the consolation of the splendid group of sculptures which Henry has presented to the nation’.61
Falling Warrior exists in an edition of ten plus one artist’s copy. Other examples of the sculpture are held in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich; Clare College, Cambridge; the Hakone Open Air Museum, Hakone; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Huddersfield Art Gallery (Kirklees Metropolitan Council); and the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. The remaining casts are believed to be held in private collections.

Alice Correia
February 2013


See John Russell, Henry Moore, London 1968, pp.125–6, and John Read, Portrait of an Artist: Henry Moore, London 1979, p.112.
[Richard Calvocoressi], ‘T.2278 Falling Warrior 1956–7’, The Tate Gallery 1978–80: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1981, pp.123–4.
Ibid., p.124.
Henry Moore cited in Donald Hall, ‘Henry Moore: An Interview by Donald Hall’, Horizon, November 1960, p.113, reprinted in Alan Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershot 2002, p.226.
Moore cited in John Hedgecoe (ed.), Henry Moore, London 1968, p.300.
A photograph captioned ‘The finished Falling Warrior, 1956–57’ showing this full-size version of the sculpture is also included in Read 1979, p.114.
Moore cited in Hedgecoe 1968, p.279.
Henry Moore sales log book, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
For a video explaining the lost wax process see http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/s/sculpture-techniques/, accessed 23 January 2014.
Moore cited in Hall 1960, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.234.
Julie Summers, ‘Gilding the Lily: The Patination of Henry Moore’s Bronze Sculptures’, in Jackie Heuman (ed.) From Marble to Chocolate: The Conservation of Modern Sculpture, London 1995, p.145.
Moore cited in Hall 1960, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.234.
Summers 1995, p.145.
Anon., ‘Mr. Moore’s New Sculpture: A Warrior To Be Proud Of’, Times, 12 June 1958, p.3.
Alan Bowness, ‘Masters at the Marlborough’, Art News and Review, no.11, 21 June 1958, p.5.
David Sylvester, ‘A New Bronze by Henry Moore’, Listener, 10 July 1958, p.51.
Frances Carey, ‘Sleeping Positions 1941’, in David Mitchinson (ed.), Celebrating Moore: Works from the Collection of the Henry Moore Foundation, London 2006, p.191.
Henry Moore cited in James Johnson Sweeny, ‘Henry Moore’, Partisan Review, March–April 1947, pp.184–5, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.266.
Kenneth Clark, Henry Moore: Drawings, London 1974, p.155.
Robert Melville, Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings 1921–1969, London 1970, p.16.
See David Mitchinson (ed.), Moore and Mythology, exhibition catalogue, The Henry Moore Foundation, Perry Green 2007.
Ibid., p.15.
Henry Moore cited in Philip James (ed.), Henry Moore on Sculpture, London 1966, p.250.
Henry Moore, letter to Kenneth and Jane Clark, 28 February 1951, Tate Archive TGA 8812/1/3/2117.
Henry Moore cited in John and Vera Russell, ‘Conversations with Henry Moore’, Sunday Times, 24 December 1961, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.69.
Moore 1955, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.284.
Herbert Read, ‘Introduction’, in Alan Bowness (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 2: Sculpture and Drawings 1949–1955, 1955, 2nd edn, London 1965, pp.x–xi.
Roger Cardinal, ‘Henry Moore: In the Light of Greece’, in Henry Moore: In the Light of Greece, exhibition catalogue, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation Museum of Contemporary Art, Andros 2000, p.30.
Will Grohmann, The Art of Henry Moore, London 1960, pp.217–18.
Ibid., p.217.
Cardinal 2000, p.44.
Grohmann 1960, p.218.
Read 1965, p.xi.
David Sylvester, Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1968, p.7.
Henry Moore, Henry Moore at the British Museum, London 1981, p.60.
Cardinal 2000, p.42.
Grohmann 1960, p.217.
Moore 1955, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.284.
Melville 1970, p.211.
Chris Stephens, in conversation with the author, 1 November 2013.
See Henry Moore, letter to Raymond Coxon and Edna Ginesi [Peacham & Gin], [August/September 1936], Tate Archive.
John Read, Portrait of an Artist: Henry Moore, London 1979, p.113.
Kenneth Clark, Another Part of the Wood, New York 1974, p.256.
See Jeremy Lewison, Henry Moore 1898–1986, Cologne 2007, and Chris Stephens, ‘Anything But Gentle: Henry Moore – Modern Sculptor’, in Chris Stephens (ed.), Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2010, pp.12–17.
David Mitchinson, ‘Introduction: War and Utility’, Henry Moore: War and Utility, exhibition catalogue, Imperial War Museum, London 2006, p.16.
Alan Bowness (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 4: Complete Sculpture 1964–73, London 1977, p.8.
John Russell, Henry Moore, London 1968, pp.139.
Ibid., p.133.
Norbert Lynton, ‘Maquette for Fallen Warrior 1956’ in Mitchinson 2006, p.252.
[David Thompson], ‘Mr Henry Moore’s Exhilarating Exhibition’, Times, 28 November 1960, p.6.
Lawrence Alloway, ‘London Letter’, Art International, vol.4, no.10, December 1960, p.50.
See ‘Note on the Henry Moore Gift’, 1978, Tate Public Records TG 4/6/10/4.
These figures are based on those listed in a memo in the records for the exhibition. See Tate Public Records TG 92/344/2.
Norman Reid, letter to Mary Danowski, 31 August 1978, Tate Public Records TG 4/6/10/4.

How to cite

Alice Correia, ‘Falling Warrior 1956–7, cast c.1957–60 by Henry Moore OM, CH’, catalogue entry, February 2013, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/henry-moore/henry-moore-om-ch-falling-warrior-r1151465, accessed 28 June 2022.