Profiles: British Sculptor Henry Moore (1898-1986)

Henry Moore achieved international fame as a sculptor, despite once being denounced for promoting ‘the cult of ugliness’. And he also remained a most unassuming man, finds Laura Gascoigne, as two new exhibitions of his work prepare to welcome visitors.

Sculptors are very rarely household names, but no one who lived through the 1960s could be unfamiliar with the name of Henry Moore. At the height of his international success, Moore’s monumental public sculptures in prominent locations — from the 12ft-high Knife Edge Two Piece (1962–65) outside London’s Houses of Parliament to the 26ft-long Reclining Figure (1963–64) outside the Lincoln Centre in New York, US — became such a feature of the urban landscape that they appeared in cartoons in the popular press. For a Modernist abstract sculptor, that was fame.

In the 1950s, Moore added a new subject to his signature themes of the mother and child and the reclining figure. As a young man, his first sight of Stonehenge by moonlight, in 1921, had left an indelible impression; 30 years later, he began a series of large bronze totemic forms recalling prehistoric monoliths.

Henry Moore with three of his Upright Motives c.1955.Photo: Barry Warner

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