Artist Profile: Henry Moore

1 January 2018

Helen Pheby, Senior Curator at Yorkshire Sculpture Park examines the work of Henry Moore whose Collection work, Helmet Head No.3, 1960 (pictured), will be on show as part of Revolt and Revolutions at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 6 January – 15 April 2018.

Henry Moore lived to be 88, by which time he was one of the most recognised artists in the world. He created an exceptional body of over 10,000 artworks in his long and illustrious career. As he became such a monumental and revered figure in the art of the twentieth century, it is possible to overlook that Moore was once an unknown young man, with progressive ideas about art and life.

Moore’s upbringing in a mining family and community in Castleford gave him a lifelong sense of social justice and the rights of workers, informed in part by his father’s friendship with the first president of the trade union of the Yorkshire miners. Moore voluntarily signed up to serve in the First World War in 1917. His role in the Battle of Cambrai is variously described as having taken charge of the battalion after his Lance Corporal became inebriated, or that he managed to stop him from drinking. What is known is that he was one of only 52 men out of 400 to answer the roll call after three days of intense fighting. He was subsequently invalided out of the army due to mustard gas poisoning, which would affect his health and voice for the rest of his life.

Moore very rarely discussed his experience of war, but in a private letter a few years later wrote that his belief in God had been undermined by the things he saw and experienced: ‘the great bloodshed and the pain, the insufferable agony and the depravity, the tears and inhuman devilishness of the war’.[1] Helmet Head No.3 (1960) is one of a series inspired by Moore’s studies of armour in the Wallace Collection, and informed by his experience of war. He was an original member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a highly influential organisation founded in response to a persuasive article by J B Priestley published in New Statesman in 1957.

It is interesting, then, in the exhibition Revolt and Revolutions to consider what at first might appear to be a typical sculpture by Moore in relation to more overtly activist artworks and so better understand his impact on art and the world. It is, therefore, highly appropriate that the new episode of the important series FF Gaiden by Larry Achiampong and David Blandy gives voice to a community leader from Castleford, Moore’s hometown.

Revolt and Revolutions, a National Partners Exhibition, is at Yorkshire Sculpture Park from 6 January until 15 April 2018.

[1] Henry Moore letter to Lucie Margarita Dufty, known as Greta, 1919 or 1920, The Henry Moore Foundation Archive



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