Henry Moore


Henry Moore Essay, Research Paper

?The whole of my development as a sculptor is an attempt to understand and realize more completely what form and shape are about, and to react to form in life…This is something that can?t be learned in a day, for sculpture is a never ending discovery.?

Henry Moore?s journey of discovery started in 1898, in Castleford, West Yorkshire, England when he was born on June 30th to a typical, middle class industrial working family. His early talent as a good sketch artist convinced his parents that he could proceed with pursuing an art career. He was so advanced he became a teacher/student at a local ?red brick,? or public school when he was 16. In the middle of learning sculpture and seeking enrollment in a fine arts academy he enrolled in the British forces when he came of age, turning 18. After spending time in London, he then traveled to France for one of the last grand battles of the Great war, the battle of Cambrat. There he suffered exposure to a gas attack by the Germans and he was sent home. After a swift recovery, he got into the respected Royal College of Art, in London; where his now budding career began.

In the twenties, Henry was interested in the sculpting of human figures, mostly

women that were usually cumbersome, homely and rigid. This idea is something that even

Michaelangelo used in his paintings in the Cistine Chapel. Henry felt that this ?thickening

up? of the figure would make it appear more calm, and the curves even more beautiful. A

good example of this would be on plate 1, Reclining Woman ?27. This piece, one of his first in a life long series of reclining figures, is done in cast concrete. Her smoothness to the eye is deceiving when the concrete is rough to the touch. The large, voluptuous curves of the work, though unrealistic, are very proportionate to the rather small head. To quote Moore: ?Individual features are not of the utmost importance…whilst their proportion and placing in the head can have enormous meaning. In figurative sculpture, the head is…the vital unit.? The twenties found Henry?s first solo exhibit in London, where he had many buyers and good reviews.

In the thirties, Henry?s emergence into a modern, surrealist sculptor was visible. His reclining figures less resembled people than flowing objects, and his look into geometric ?function? could be seen in his stringed figures series that lasted over two years. ?Bird Basket,? (found on plate 2) made from the rare and beautiful Lignum Vitae wood, which is a symbol of a wild bird?s scarcity and elegance, is a good example of the geometric aspect of his stringed period. The strings make up angles, which in turn give order to the flowing, smooth piece that was carved. Much like the numbers that give order to the chaotic world that we live in. A piece that is my personal favorite was done in 1939 called ?Three Points.? (See plate 3). Moore?s sculpting skill can be seen in this fragile, cast iron sculpture. The three fine points come together very sharply, giving an overall smoothness to it?s composition; not to mention the smoothness of the metal?s surface to the eye and fingers.

The war years of the forties was the time when Henry Moore gained international acclaim, and became the ?voice on British contemporary sculpture.? At this time he regained his humanist status by doing a series of parental figures and their children, this was probably sparked by the birth of his only daughter Mary. He also joined and did ?propaganda? sketches for the War Artists Advisory Committee, called the ?Shelter Sketches.?

From the fifties, sixties and on up Henry?s career became phenomenally profound as he became more of a surrealist sculptor and looked deeper into form instead of real life and organic forms. On plate 4 there is an example of his large scale explorations into surrealism, called Large Two Forms. He strove to make a sculpture that could be viewed entirely differently from other ?relative points in space.? This shape, embodies the sturdy male figure on the right side, and the more curved and sleeker female figure on the left, the two together being one of Moore?s ongoing themes. The appearance of fluidness and infiniteness of his surrealist work ?calls into question the nature of the work of art as a resolved piece.? Does it ever end? Does the art go beyond the borders of the piece? That was on thing that the surrealist sculpture critics were battling over at the time.

As Henry?s career started to slow down in the seventies he still continued to practice the surrealist ways of sculpture. The giant sculpture called Large Four Piece Reclining Figure (see plate 5) done in 1973 shows his continuation in combining the inorganic shapes with the natural, human behavior of reclining. There is a lot of energy between the parts, they will never touch and be one, but in one?s mind they are for they overlap. This piece is unique because it looks very mechanical with the rims and dips and edges on the outsides of the four bronze designs, more so than most any of his other works of this type. He dipped back into doing family orientated works before his death in the mid-eighties.

Henry Moore was considered to be the greatest British modern sculptor, he has proven this by winning international prize after prize, honorary doctorates at Berlin, London University, Harvard, and the RCA. Also in his proves this in his winning of many international civilian Order of Merit honors in places such as Germany, Mexico, and France. He died in 1986, August 31st in Perry Green, Hertfordshire in Britain, leaving a career behind him that nearly no other modern sculptor of his day could match in international acclaim and respect.


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