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Henry Spencer Moore (30 July 1898 – 31 August 1986) was an English artist. He is best known for his semi-abstract monumental sculptures which are located around the world as public works of art. His forms are usually abstractions of the human figure, and are generally pierced or contain hollow spaces. Many interpreters liken the undulating form of his reclining figures to the landscape and hills of his Yorkshire birthplace.

Oval with Points (1968-70) Henry Moore Foundation
Two Piece Reclining Figure No. 5 (1963-64) Kenwood House, London

Moore the Modernist

Moore became well known through his carved marble and larger-scale abstract cast bronze sculptures, and was instrumental in introducing a particular form of modernism to the United Kingdom. His ability in later life to fulfill large-scale commissions made him exceptionally wealthy. Despite this, he lived frugally—most of the money he earned went towards endowing the Henry Moore Foundation, which continues to support education and promotion of the arts.

Draped Seated Woman (1957-58) Hebrew University of Jerusalem

A Brief History of Henry Moore

Moore was born in Castleford, West Riding of Yorkshire, England. His family often struggled with poverty. In elementary school he began modeling in clay and carving in wood. He decided to become a sculptor when he was eleven after hearing of Michelangelo’s achievements. After serving in World War I, Moore continued his education and in 1919 became a student at the Leeds School of Art, followed, in 1921, by a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London. The influence of sculptors such as Constantin Brâncuși, Jacob Epstein, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and Frank Dobson led Moore to the method of direct carving, in which imperfections in the material and marks left by tools became part of the finished sculpture.

Sheep Piece (1971–72), Zürichhorn, Zürich-Seefeld, Switzerland

In 1924, Moore studied the works of Michelangelo and other old masters in Northern Italy. On returning to London, Moore began teaching at the Royal College of Art, followed by a post as the Head of the Department of Sculpture at the Chelsea School of Art. His teaching schedule included time for pursuing his own work. In 1929, Moore married Irina Radetsky, a painting student at the Royal College. The couple moved to Hampstead and joined a small colony of avant-garde artists who were taking root there. At this time Moore gradually transitioned from direct carving to casting in bronze. When their home was hit by World War II bomb shrapnel in 1941, Moore and Radetsky moved to the hamlet of Perry Green, where Moore would live and work for the remainder of his life.

All good art has contained both abstract and surrealist elements, just as it has contained both classical and romantic elements – order and surprise, intellect and imagination, conscious and unconscious.”

Henry Moore
Reclining Figure (1982) Kunst in Schwäbisch Hall
Henry Moore in his Studio (1975) by Allan Warren

Moore’s Later Career

In the 1950s, Moore began to receive increasingly significant commissions. With many more public works of art, the scale of Moore’s sculptures grew significantly and he started to employ an increasing number of assistants to work with him. During the last three decades of Moore’s life, several major retrospectives took place around the world, and the number of commissions continued to increase. Moore also appeared in several films, including the documentary “5 British Sculptors (Work and Talk)” by American filmmaker Warren Forma. In 1977, he established the Henry Moore Foundation as a registered charity with Radetsky and their daughter Mary as trustees. The Foundation was established to encourage the public appreciation of the visual arts and especially the works of Moore. It now runs his house and estate at Perry Green, with a gallery, sculpture park, and studios.