200 x 180 x 130 mm
Presented by Mr Henry Bergen to the Victoria and Albert Museum 1949; transferred to the Tate Gallery 1983
Technique and condition
There is a sharp edge around the chin, and behind this the form has been narrowed to a square edged ‘neck’ shape. The back of the mask is flat but a wide shallow depression has been hollowed out, perhaps with a chisel, underneath the fixing at the top. The fixing itself is a U-shaped steel rod that has been embedded to form a loop (fig.2). Initially, this may have been embedded a little too deeply and the area around it has subsequently been hollowed out to ensure that it can provide a secure fixing.
How to citeLyndsey Morgan, 'Technique and Condition', October 2011, in Alice Correia, ‘Mask 1929 by Henry Moore OM, CH’, catalogue entry, December 2012, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www
The sculpture was exhibited at Moore’s second solo exhibition in April 1931 at the Leicester Galleries in London under the title Mask (Concrete) No.3. Collins accounted for this title by noting that by 1931 Moore had made four masks in cast concrete, and that this work may have been the third to have been executed.4 The first concrete mask was made in 1927 (fig.1), while the three subsequent sculptures, including Tate’s example, all date from 1929. Although the exact sequence in which the three 1929 sculptures were made is not known, they share certain characteristics: the colour of the concrete, the grained texture of the surface, and the sharp, triangulated nose of Mask (fig.2) are similar to those of Mask, while the pressed eye sockets and down-turned mouth can also be found in Mask (fig.3).
21 This book has been identified as Ernst Fuhrmann’s Mexiko III (1922), a copy of which Moore bought in 1923. In addition to this book, Moore is known to have studied a variety of recent publications on primitive art, including Herbert Kühn’s Die Kunst Der Primitiven (1923). Both of these publications provided source material for a series of sketches made in 1926. For example the pencil drawings outlining two open mouthed, upward thrusting heads from Notebook No.6 (fig.4) are direct copies of two views of the same sculpture illustrated in Fuhrmann’s Mexiko III (figs.5 and 6). Moore’s close examination of the images in this particular publication suggests that specific reproductions may have informed his own work. For example, parallels can be drawn between the distinctive protruding forehead of Mask and the excessively bulbous cranium of an undated sculpture illustrated in Fuhrmann’s book (fig.7).
T06696; fig.9), which has no significant protrusions. Although the sculpture’s projecting forehead may have been influenced by the Mexican deformed head seen in Fuhrmann’s Mexiko III, the idiosyncratic profile of Mask also bears a striking resemblance to that of a kneeling woman presented in a carved wooden stool from Zaire from c.1900, housed in the British Museum (fig.10). Moore made a drawing of the woman’s face some time between 1922–4 (fig.11), and may have worked from direct observation in the museum, or from a reproduction seen in Ernst Furhrmann’s book Afrika (1922). Moore’s attitude towards African art followed that of Roger Fry, who celebrated the way in which African sculpture was composed of exaggerated shapes in order to assert its three dimensionality, resulting not in the naturalism of classical European art, but in a ‘disconcerting vitality’ with carved figures ‘possessing an inner life of their own’.24 In 1933 Moore echoed Fry’s argument stating that African carving ‘helped the artist to realise the intrinsic emotional significance of shapes as distinct from their representational values’.25
How to cite
Alice Correia, ‘Mask 1929 by Henry Moore OM, CH’, catalogue entry, December 2012, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www