Henry Moore, OM CH (1898-1986)

Born in Castleford, Yorkshire, he attended Leeds School of Art from 1919-21. In 1921 Moore won a Royal Exhibition Scholarship to study sculpture at the Royal College of Art. He taught at the Royal College from 1924-31 and at Chelsea School of Art from 1932-39. He was given his first one-man show in 1928 by the Warren Gallery and in the same year he gained his first public commission – to carve a relief in stone for a facade of the new Underground Building, London.

Moore was a member of the Seven and Five Society from 1931 and he was invited to join Unit One; a group whose members included Edward Burra, Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Edward Wadsworth. In 1946 Moore was given his first overseas retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 1948 he won the International Sculpture Prize at the Venice Biennale. He had retrospectives at the Tate, London, in both 1951 and 68. And he won first prize at the Sao Paulo Biennale in Brazil in 1953.

Moore was a trustee of the National Gallery from 1955-74 and in 1977 he formed the Henry Moore Foundation at Much Hadham in Hertfordshire.

Henry Moore, OM CH (1898-1986), Nine Helmet Heads, 1950


Pencil, chalk, wax crayon and watercolour on paper
22½ x 15¾ in (57 x 39.5 cm)
Signed and dated ‘50; inscribed on the reverse

Collections: Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin) New York; M. Knoedler & Co. Inc., New York, 1960 when bought by a private American collector and thence by descent

Exhibited: Cincinnati, The Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati Art Museum, Rental Gallery, 1956 (as Heads #1 -details untraced).

Literature: Ann Garrould (ed.) Henry Moore: Complete Drawings 1940-49 Vol. 3. 2001, cat. no. AG 48 6, illustrated p. 279 ( as dated 1948).

Helmet Heads are one of the most fertile and enduring themes in Moore’s art. The idea first emerged in his sketchbooks of c. 1939-40, when the subject was simply referred to as ‘Helmet’. He returned to the theme in 1950 with a series of masterly drawings and sculptures – the latter cast in lead, which Moore considered an appropriately sinister medium. The emphasis is now firmly on the interior shapes as these eerie forms are given decidedly human dimensions. Moore says the origin for the Helmet Heads “may be the interest I had early on in armour, in places like the Victoria and Albert Museum, where one used to wander around as a student during the lunch hours. And it may be that I remember reading stories that impressed me and Wyndham Lewis talking about the shell of a lobster covering the soft flesh inside. This became an established idea with me – that of an outer protection to an inner form, and it may have something to do with the Mother and Child idea; that is where there is the relation of the big thing to the little thing and the protection idea. The helmet is a kind of protection thing too, and it became a recording of things inside other things.” (Moore quoted in M. Chase Moore on his Methods in A. Wilkinson (ed.) Henry Moore: Writings and Conversation 2002 p. 214)

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