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Jacob Kramer (1892-1962)

Henry Moore (1898-1986)

Henry Moore was primarily a sculptor.

He was born in Castleford, Yorkshire, on July 30, 1898, as the seventh of eight children. When reflecting on his childhood, Henry remembered his mother’s dignity, which flows through the way he portrays women in his sculptures. His father was a politically active, self-taught miner, and both parents encouraged education. Castleford was a mix of industrial and rural landscape. As Henry’s practice grew, many of his influences were about the interplay between the body (people) and nature or natural forms.

Henry decided he wanted to become a sculptor at age 11, after hearing a Sunday school story about Michelangelo.

Like Kramer, his artistic talent was nurtured by progressive thinking teachers. However, he was encouraged by his parents to train as a teacher, rather than an artist, as it offered greater financial security. He did not enjoy teaching and signed up to serve in the army during the First World War. He was injured in 1917 by a gas attack during the Battle of Cambrai in France.

After being demobilised in 1919, he won a veteran’s grant to study at the Leeds School of Art in West Yorkshire:

‘I broke finally away from parental domination which had been very strong. My old friend [and teacher], Miss Gostick, found out about ex-servicemen's grants. With her help I applied and received one for the Leeds School of Art. This was understood from the outset merely to be a first step. London was the goal.’ Henry Moore in James Johnson Sweeney, 'Henry Moore', Partisan Review, New York, March-April 1947.

Leeds was a starting point for his journey, and unlike Kramer, he didn’t return to live. In 1921, he was awarded a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art in London.

He moved to London, gained a reputation as an avant-garde sculptor (and started taking commissions), met and married his wife, Irina (also a painter), faced criticism from colleagues and resigned his teaching post at the Royal College of Art. In 1939 war broke out again, and he was recruited as an official war artist producing drawings of people sheltering in the London Underground during the Blitz and the ‘reserved occupation’ of mining.

At the Coal Face, A Miner Pushing a Tub by Henry Moore, 1942, image shows the interior of a mine-shaft with miners working a face in the background. A miner pushes a coal tub on a track through a forest of wooden props, bent double and with a Davy lamp hanging from his waist
At the Coal Face, A Miner Pushing a Tub by Henry Moore, 1942

Moore drew this at Wheldale Colliery, Castleford. This was the colliery where his father had been employed. It’s a typical scene of an anonymous miner and the hard labour of mining that was keeping the war effort going.

In September 1940, his London flat was damaged by bombing and he and Irina moved to Perry Green, Hertfordshire. Hoglands, a farmhouse in the hamlet, became their home for the rest of their lives. It is now owned by the Henry Moore Foundation.

His large, semi-abstract sculptures of the human figure are characterised by their smooth, organic shape and often include empty hollows that evoke form as meaningfully as solid mass.

Reclining Woman by Henry Moore, abstract bronze sculpture of a woman lying on her left side, propped up on elbow, with her right knee raised. Her right arms rests on her right side. She looks down along her body
Reclining Woman by Henry Moore

Questions to ask about sculptural forms: what do you think the form represents? What do you think the artist is trying to say? What’s it made of? Has it been cast, or shaped, or is it made of found materials? How big is it? What does it feel like? What does the space around the form tell you? what does it remind you of? Can you see a story? How does it compare to other sculptures of similar subjects? How does the light change the nature of the sculpture? What happens when you walk around it? What else do you notice? Again, look deeply. Look slowly.