Henry Moore OM, CH, ‘Reclining Figure’ 1951
Henry Moore OM, CH
Reclining Figure 1951
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved

Room 6: Post war

By 1950, Moore was considered the world’s pre-eminent modern sculptor. In Britain he became known for a series of Family Groups made for New Towns that were replacing bomb-damaged housing. Reassuring subjects are suggested in his rocking chair sculptures and the large Upright Internal/External Form where ideas of protection and nurture are revised. But in 1950 he also seems deliberately to have signalled a return to pre-war concerns and anxieties. Helmet Head echoes The Helmet made as war began in 1939. This duality in Moore’s practice is apparent in the fragile or fallen figure, whose skeletal nature is evident in the original plaster versions which have been discussed in relation to memories of the Holocaust. Moore described the broken and truncated bodies in his group of warrior sculptures as being ‘bony, edgy, tense forms’. Although he spoke of these wounded figures in defiant terms, alluding to their capacity to ‘withstand aggression’ and ‘put up with the blows of fate’, they have morbid overtones. Set against the disappointments of the post-war era, with anxieties about the atomic bomb and the Cold War, Moore’s sculptures can be seen as metaphors for contemporary disquiet shaped by the political tensions of the period.

Henry Moore Warrior with Shield 1953–4

Henry Moore
Warrior with Shield
Birmingham City Art Gallery © Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation

Henry Moore Rocking Chair No.2, 1950

Henry Moore
Rocking Chair No.2 1950
Leeds/ Hirshhorn © Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation