Henry Moore OM CH FBA (30 July 1898 – 31 August 1986) was an English artist and sculptor, best known for his monumental bronzes, which combined abstract art and Surrealism, as Moore frequently declared. He is famous for his many large sculptures, located worldwide as public works of art.
Quotes of Henry Moore
- chronologically, on date of the quotes
1925 - 1940
- The Negroes.. ..their unique claim for admiration is their power to produce form completely in the round.. .Negro sculpture is completely in the round, fully-conceived air-surrounded form.
- In: 'Unpublished notes', c. 1925-1926, HMF archive; as quoted in Henry Moore writings and Conversations, ed. Alan Wilkinson, University of California Press, California 2002, p. 96
- I prefer Mexican to Mayan sculpture. Mexican stone sculptures have largeness of scale & a grim, sublime, austerity, a real stoniness. They were the true sculptors in sympathy with their material & their sculpture has some of the character of mountains, of boulders, rocks & sea worn pebbles.
- In: 'Unpublished notes', c. 1925-1926, HMF archive; as quoted in Henry Moore writings and Conversations, ed. Alan Wilkinson, University of California Press, California 2002, p. 97
- The distinguishing quality of most primitive art is the intense vitality which it possesses, because it has been made by a people in close touch with life, who felt simply and strongly, and whose art was a means of expressing vitally important beliefs, hopes and fears. Negro sculpture is essentially religious and cannot be detached from the tribal gods, priests and ancient rituals. When civilization destroyed these things, it also destroyed their Art. These carvings have a serious and pathetic power – a bigness and monumental simplicity born of the racial patience in bearing life with all its terror and mystery.. ..(But as always, it was the artist who was the first to see in them a new thing – a new plastic conception – an artistic worth – a value as art – their importance as art).
- In: Primitive African Sculpture, Foreword, Lefevre Galleries, London 1933, p. ?
- This is what the sculptor must do. He must strive continually to think of, and use, form in its full spatial completeness. He gets the solid shape, as it were, inside his head - he thinks of it, whatsoever its size, as if he were holding it completely enclosed in the hollow of his hand. He mentally visualizes a complete form..
- In: The sculptor speaks (1937), p. unknown
- I was in the trenches in the last war [1914 – 1918], & so all the more don’t want to shoot or be shot at, again.. .Although no one can say there’s democracy in England in the real sense of the word, & although British Imperialism has a pretty bloody record, I hate Fascism & Nazism & all its aims & ideology so intensively, that I don’t think I could refuse to help in trying to prevent it from being victorious. However, when the time comes that I’m asked, or have got to do something in this war, I hope it will be something less destructive than taking part in the actual fighting and killing.
- In a letter to w:Arthur Sale, [English scholar and poet], 8 October 1939
The sculptor speaks (1937)
- The sculptor speaks (1937), as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock -, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, transl. Daphne Woodward
- Since the Gothic, European sculpture had become overgrown with moss, weeds – all sorts of surface excrescences which completely concealed shape. It has been Brancusi’s special mission to get rid of this overgrowth, and make us once more shape-conscious. To do this he has had to concentrate on very simple direct shapes, to keep his sculpture, as it were, one-cylindered, to refine and polish a single shape to a degree almost too precious... it may now be no longer necessary to close down and restrict sculpture to the single form unit. We can now begin to open out. To relate and combine together several forms of varied sizes, sections, and directions into one organic whole.
- p. 250
- I have always paid great attention to natural forms, such as bones, shells, and pebbles, etc. Sometimes for several years running I have been to the same part of the seashore – but each year a new shape of pebble has caught my eye, which the year before, though it was there in hundreds, I never saw... Pebbles show Nature’s way of working stone. Some of the pebbles I pick up have holes right through them.. .A piece of stone can have [for the sculptor] a hole through it and not be weakened – if the hole is of a studied size, shape and direction. On the principle of the arch, it can remain just as strong.
- pp. 250-251
- The first hole made through a piece of stone is a revelation. The hole connects one side to the other, making it immediately more three-dimensional. A hole can itself have as much shape-meaning as a solid mass. Sculpture in air is possible, where the stone contains only the hole, which is the intended and considered form. The mystery of the hole – the mysterious fascination of caves in hill sides and cliffs.
- p. 251
- Yet actual physical size has an emotional meaning. We relate everything to our own size, and our emotional response to size is controlled by the fact that men on the average are between five and six feet high.. .If practical considerations allowed me, cost of material, of transport, etc., I should like to work on large carvings more often than I do. The average in-between size does not disconnect an idea enough from prosaic everyday life. The very small or the very big [sculpture] takes on an added size emotion.
- p. 253
- Recently I have been working in the country, where, carving in the open air, I find sculpture more natural than in a London studio, but it needs bigger dimensions. A large piece of stone or wood placed almost anywhere at random in a field, orchard, or garden, immediately looks right and inspiring.
- p. 254
- The violent quarrel between the abstractionists [like Barbara Hepworth and w:Ben Nicholson, both English sculptors] and the surrealists seems to me quite unnecessary. 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. Both sides of the artist’s personality must play their part. And I think the first inception of a painting or a sculpture may begin from either end.
- pp. 254-255
- As far as my own experience is concerned, I sometimes begin a drawing with no preconceived problem to solve, with only the desire to use pencil on paper, and make lines, tones, and shapes with no conscious aim; bur as my mind takes in what is so produced, a point arrives where some idea becomes conscious and crystallizes, and then a control and ordering begin to take place.
- p. 255
'Unpublished notes' for The Sculptor Speaks (1937)
- 'Unpublished notes' for The Sculptor Speaks, 1937, HMF Archive; as quoted in Henry Moore, writings and Conversations, ed. Alan Wilkinson, University of California Press, California 2002, pp. 112 -1
- The conflict between the theories of Surrealism & pure abstraction leads many to look upon one as black & bad & the other as white & good. Yet it seems to me that a good work of art has always contained both abstract & surrealist elements – just as it has both classical & romantic elements (order & surprise?).. .Surrealism is widening the field of contemporary art & is giving more freedom to the artist (& perhaps what is not unimportant, – stretching the appreciation of the public). Abstraction is re-establishing fundamental laws; bringing back form to painting & sculpture. There are many products of surrealism which I personally dislike,.. ..but equally Unimportant to me are the empty decorations produced in the name of abstraction.
- pp. 112-113
- The subconscious plays a great part in art, that is to say that in conceiving & realizing a work a great deal happens which cannot be logically explained – the mind jumps from one stage to another much further on without there being traceable steps shown between – sudden solutions which cannot be followed step by step – in a word – inspiration.
- p. 113
- My work may be balanced on the second side [the Romantic tendency].. ..- but I believe it has some elements of order & unity, some design, even balance & abstract qualities, some tenseness. When its all classical, its too obvious & cold & deadly perfect - when its all romantic, its too loose uncontrolled wildly chaotic & shapeless – But in my opinion – Gothic sculpture – Mexican, all primitive sculpture, Shakespeare, Beethoven, Tintoretto, El Greco, Rubens, Michelangelo, Masaccio, are all more romantic than classic [Moore is reacting here on Stanley Casson's critic in 'The Listener' 25 Aug. 1937
- p. 116
- I find myself lined up with the surrealists because Surrealism means freedom for the creative side of man, for surprise & discovery & life, for an opening out & widening of mans consciousness, for changing life & against conserving worn out traditions, for variety not a uniformity, for opening not closing.
- p. 123
1940 - 1955
- Mexican sculpture, as soon as I found it, seemed to me true and right, perhaps because I at once hit on similarities in it with some eleventh-century carvings I had seen as a boy on Yorkshire churches. Its 'stoniness', by which I mean its truth to material, its tremendous power without loss of sensitiveness, its astonishing variety and fertility of form-invention and its approach to a full three-dimensional conception of form, makes it unsurpassed in my opinion by any other period of stone sculpture.
- Quote in 'The Listener', 24 April 1941, pp. 598-9; as quoted in Henry Moore writings and Conversations, ed. Alan Wilkinson, University of California Press, California 2002, p. 104
- No, I think Abstract art is valuable. It teaches people the language of painting. In my own work I have produced carvings which perhaps might see to most people purely abstract. This means that in those works I have been mainly concerned to try to solve problems of design and composition. But these carvings have not really satisfied me because I have not had the same sort of grip or hold over them that I have as soon as a thing takes on a kind of organic idea. And in almost all my carvings there has been an organic idea in my mind. I think of it as having a head, body, limbs..
- Quote in 'The Listener', 13 November 1941, pp. 657-9; as quoted in Henry Moore writings and Conversations, ed. Alan Wilkinson, University of California Press, California 2002, p. 126
- Yes, Wordsworth often personified objects in nature and gave them the human aspect, and personally I have done rather the reverse process in sculpture. I’ve often found that by taking formal ideas from landscape, and putting them into my sculpture I have, as it were, related a human figure to a mountain, and so got the same effect as a metaphor in painting.
- Quote in 'The Listener', 13 November 1941, pp. 657-9; as quoted in Henry Moore writings and Conversations, ed. Alan Wilkinson, University of California Press, California 2002, pp. 126-27
- I myself in my work tend to humanize everything, to relate mountains to people, tree trunks to the human body, pebbles to heads & figures, etc.. ..To cut out & make a taboo any organic representational element or human reference & then say the artist has gained freedom, seems as silly as locking yourself up in a small cell & saying 'now I know where I am – this is freedom – freedom from the outside world' [critic on the idea of pure Abstract art by Moore]
- In: 'Unpublished notes' for 'Art and Life', 1941, HMR Archive; as quoted in Henry Moore writings and Conversations, edited by Alan Wilkinson, University of California Press, California 2002, p. 114
- Actually Rogers Fry’s Vision and Design  was the most lucky discovery for me. I came on it by chance while looking for another book in the Leeds Reference Library. Fry in his essay on 'Negro Sculpture' stressed the 'three-dimensional realization' that characterized African art and its 'truth to material'. More, Fry opened the way to other books and to the realization of the British museum. That was really the beginning.
- in 'Partisan Review', New York, March-April 1947
- One room after another in the British museum took my enthusiasm. The Royal College of Art meant nothing in comparison. Every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday I would go to the British Museum. But not till after three months did things begin to settle into any pattern of reality for me. Till then everything was wonderful – a new world at every turn. That is the value of the British Museum: you have everything behind you; you are free to try to find out your own way and, after a while, to find what appeals to you most. And after the first excitement it was the art of ancient Mexico that spoke to me most – except perhaps Romanesque, or early Norman. And I admit clearly and frankly that early Mexican art formed my views of carving as much as everything I could do.
- in 'Partisan Review', New York, March-April 1947
- I feel the conflict still exists in me – but not causing me any difficulty in working, as it did immediately after returning from Italy [in 1925]. In fact I ask myself is this [the] conflict what makes things happen? For it seems to me now that this conflict between the excitement & great impression I got from Mexican sculpture & the love & sympathy I felt for Italian art, represents two opposing sides in me, the 'tough' & the 'tender', & that many other artists have had the same two conflicting sides in their natures.. ..and really I see no difficulty in appreciating both sides & finding them in the same artist. Perhaps an obvious & continuous synthesis will eventually derive in my own work – I can’t say – I can only work as I feel & believe at the time I do the work.
- In: 'Undated notes' 1950; as quoted in The Art of Henry Moore, Will Grohmann, Thames and Hudson, London 1960, n.p.
- The work of the sculptors of my age & somewhat older – Brancusi – Arp – Lipschitz – Laurens – Giacometti – has gradually approached a freedom & moved into space, compared with the sculptors of earlier period – Rodin – Maillol [. And] & the young sculptors of today all have the tendency to work with space – to model rather than carve – but it is very necessary in my opinion to have been able to get the refinement & completeness of a single form before going on to space form with no body -
- In: 'Unpublished notes' 1951, HMF Archive; as quoted in Henry Moore writings and Conversations, ed. Alan Wilkinson, University of California Press, California 2002, p. 121
- Too often in a modern building the work of art is an afterthought – a piece of decoration added to fill a space that is felt to be too empty. Ideally the work of art should be a focus round which the harmony of the whole building revolves – inseparable from the design, structurally coherent and aesthetically essential.. .He [the sculptor] will want to consider both external proportions and internal space volumes in relation to the size and style of sculpture that might be required – not merely the decorative function of sculpture.. .I am thinking of the didactic and symbolic functions of sculpture in Gothic architecture, inseparable from the architectural conception itself…
- Unesco, International Conference of artists, Venice 1952; typescript in HMF Library -
- The idea for [his sculpture] 'The Warrior' came to me at the end of 1952 or very early in 1953. It was evolved from a pebble I found on the seashore in the summer of 1952, and which reminded me of the stump of a leg, amputated at the hip. Just as Leonardo says somewhere in his notebooks that a painter can find a battle scene in the lichen marks on a wall, so this gave me the start of The Warrior idea. First I added the body, leg and one arm and it became a wounded warrior, but at first the figure was reclining. A day or two later I added a shield and altered its position and arrangement into a seated figure and so it changed from an inactive pose into a figure which, though wounded, is still defiant.. .The head has a blunted and bull-like power but also a sort of dumb animal acceptance and forbearance of pain.. .The figure may be emotionally connected (as one critic has suggested) with one’s feelings and thoughts about England during the crucial and early part of the last war. The position of the shield and its angle gives protection from above. The distance of the shield from the body and the rectangular shape of the space enclosed between the inside surface of the shield and the concave front of the body is important.. .This sculpture is the first single and separate male figure that I have done in sculpture and carrying it out in its final large scale was almost like the discovery of a new subject matter; the bony, edgy, tense forms were a great excitement to make.. .Like the bronze 'Draped Reclining Figure' of 1952-3 I think 'The Warrior' has some Greek influence, not consciously wished...
- In a letter, (15 January 1955); as quoted in Henry Moore on Sculpture: a Collection of the Sculptor’s Writings and Spoken Words, ed. Philip James, Macdonald, London 1966, p.250
1955 - 1970
- The observation of nature is part of an artist's life, it enlarges his form-knowledge, keeps him fresh and from working only by formula, and feeds inspiration
- Henry Moore, Sir Herbert Edward Read, David Sylvester (1957) Henry Moore: 1921-1948, p. xxxi
- There is one quality I find in all the artists I admire most – men like Masaccio, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Cézanne. I mean a disturbing element, a distortion, giving evidence of a struggle of some sort.. .Great Art is not Perfect. Here the disturbing element comes in. It is instructive to know that Rembrandt copied Mantegna, whose art is the extreme opposite of his own. Why did he do so? Because he was conscious that his own art lacked the classical element. He was aware of the opposite, and that makes him greater.
- Quote in 'Conversations with Henri Moore', J.P. Hodin, in 'The Observer', 24 November 1958
- The disturbing quality of life goes hand in hand with the disturbing quality of our time. The temporal emphasizes the perpetual.. .I willingly accept what I try to bring together. In the heads of my 'King and Queen' (Moore created in 1952/53] or in the head and the body of my 'Warrior' [1953/54], some mixture of degrees of realism is implicit. But we got used to this mixture in Chartres [the famous Gothic cathedral], and we shall get used to it again. I do not suggest that I have intentionally done it.. .It is just that in the head part I could focus, in essence, the intention of the entire figure.. .By contrasting the head to the natural structure of the rest, the whole idea of the figure is pointed out – it is these contrasts which do it.
- Quote in 'Conversations with Henri Moore', J.P. Hodin, in 'The Observer', 24 November 1958
- Yes. There was a period when I tried to avoid looking at Greek – and Renaissance – sculpture of any kind; when I thought that the Greek and Renaissance were the enemy and that one had to throw all that over and start again from the beginning of primitive art. It's only in the last ten or fifteen years that I've begun to know how wonderful the elgin Marbles are.
- 'Henry Moore'; an interview by Donald, 'Horizon', New York, November 1960
- What is a cave? A cave is a shape. It’s not the lump of mountain over it.
- In: 'Henry Moore’s World', Carlton Lake, 'Atlantic Monthly' Bonston, Jan. 1962 p. 45
- Well, it's the only picture I ever wanted to own ['Three Bathers' of Cézanne ]. It's a Cézanne and the joy of my life. I saw it about a year ago in an exhibition and I was stunned by it. I didn’t sleep for two or three nights trying to decide whether to.. .To me it is marvelous. Monumental.. .It's not perfect, it’s a sketch. But then I don't like absolute perfection. I believe one should make a struggle towards something one can't do rather than do the thing that comes easily. Perhaps another reason is why I fell for it is that the type of woman he portrays is the same kind as I like. Each of the figures I could turn in into a piece of sculpture, very simple. Not young girls but that wide, broad, mature woman. Matronly.
- as quoted in: Monitor: An Anthology, ed. Huw Wheldon, MacDonald, London 1962, pp. 21-22
- When I was offered the site near the House of Lords... I liked the place so much that I didn't bother to go and see an alternative site in Hyde Park — one lonely sculpture can be lost in a large park. The House of Lords site is quite different. It is next to a path where people walk and it has a few seats where they can sit and contemplate it.
- And for me Michelangelo’s greatest work is one that was in his studio partly finished, partly unfinished when he died 'The Rondanini Pietà'. I don’t know of any other single work of art by anyone that is more poignant, more moving. It isn’t the most powerful of Michelangelo’s works – it’s a mixture, in fact, of two styles.. ..the changing became so drastic that I think he knocked the head off the sculpture.. .So the figure must originally have been a good deal taller. And if we see also the proportion of the length of the body of Christ compared with the length of the legs, there’s no doubt that the whole top of the original sculpture has been cut away. Now this to me is a great question. Why should I and other sculptors I know, my contemporaries – I think that Giacometti feels this, I know Marino Marini feels it – find this work one of the most moving and greatest works we know of when it’s a work which has such disunity in it?.. .But that’s so moving, so touching: the position of the heads, the whole tenderness of the top part of the sculpture, is in my opinion more what it is by being in contrast with the rather finished, tough, leathery, typical Michelangelo legs. The top part is Gothic and the lower part is sort of Renaissance.
- In an interview with David Silvester, in 'The Sunday Times Magazine', 16 February 1964, pp. 18, 20-22
- My sculpture is becoming less representational, less an outward visual copy, and so what some people would call more abstract; but only because I believe in that in this way I can present the human psychological content of my work with the greatest directness and intensity.
- Henry Moore on Sculpture, James, Philip, New York: Viking Press, (1967), p. 68
1970 and later
- ..these reproductions were in Zwemmer's bookshop [in the 1920's]. I can see them now. They were black. There was one on Negro sculpture, one on Mexican sculpture, one on an Egyptian sculpture, and so on. And all these I knew. And in one of them was this small reproduction of the Chac Mool [famous Toltec-Maya sculpture]. It was the pose that struck me – this idea of a figure being on its back and turned upwards to the sky instead of lying on its side, which is a different sort of idea from the Renaissance, or Greek reclining figure, which is usually on its side. And this gave me all sorts of chances of making variations on it.
- In: The Donald Caroll interviews, Talmy Franklin, London 1973, p. 377
- In Castleford, where I was born, there are what are called sand holes. They are caves where the sand has been excavated and they run into the side of certain hillsides, quite a long distance, and you can get lost in them. Now these had a fascination for me, and as boys we would take a reel of cotton many yards long and go into the caves. But one wouldn't go further than the cotton because it was dark. You wouldn't know your way back. In those days there weren't flash lamps, so one only had a match or something, and the matches were these brimstone matches. And the caves always had this fascination for me, these holes did. Digging into something always had this fascination for me. So I think it's not so much Archipenko, because the Archipenko hole is a decorative one. I mean he makes a hole in a breast instead of a fullness, but the hole acts the same.
- In: The Donald Caroll interviews, Talmy Franklin, London 1973, p. 378
- When the Surrealist exhibition [in London, 1936] was held Barbara [Hepworth] was by then married to [the sculptor] w:Ben Nicholson, they were strongly against it [against Surrealism ], though I felt, and feel, that there needn't be the sort of division in art that sprang up then. And Ben had also been much influenced by Mondrian. He was devoted to abstract art and she became much more interested in the abstract form. But for me, the essence of sculpture has always been the human figure. Still, of course, one kept in touch and one met and one's paths crossed.
- In: 'The Sunday Times', 25 May 1975; as quoted in Henry Moore writings and Conversations, ed. Alan Wilkinson, University of California Press, California 2002, p. 121
- I was a Yorkshire miner's son, the youngest of seven, and my mother was no longer so very young. She suffered from bad rheumatism in the back and would often say to me in winter, when I came home from school: 'Henry, boy, come and rub my back.' Then I would massage her back with liniment. When I came to model this figure [for his sculpture 'Seated Woman', 1957] which represents a fully mature woman, I found that I was unconsciously giving to its back the long-forgotten shape of the one that I had so often rubbed as a boy. Not just her shoulder but her whole back down from the shoulder blades with the skin close to the bone, to the fleshy lower parts. I had a strong sense of contrast between bone and flesh. I was seven or eight at the time [c. 1906].
- Quote in 1978; as quoted in Henry Moore writings and Conversations, ed. Alan Wilkinson, University of California Press, California 2002, pp. 32-33
- One knows that later Giacometti broke this domination [[the surrealist influence of Breton, and he became completely interested again in the figure, he became figurative – he did nothing in the end but portraits of his brother and so on, and all very... not realistic, but interested in life, in nature, and not so much in the dream or in the fantasy.
- In 'Henry Moore in Spain' / 'Henry Moore interview', c. 1981, HMF Library; as quoted in Henry Moore writings and Conversations, ed. Alan Wilkinson, University of California Press, California 2002, p. 152
- In Yorkshire in Adel Woods, just outside Leeds [five miles north of Leeds, England], there was a big rock among many that I've called Adel Rock. That influenced me quite a bit [for instance in making 'Two Piece Reclining Figure, No. 1', 1959]. For me, it was the first big, bleak lump of stone set in the landscape and surrounded by marvelous gnarled prehistoric trees. It had no feature of recognition, no element of copying of naturalism, just a bleak, powerful form, very impressive. It was the local beauty spot, so to speak, and I knew it from a child. And much later, when I was a student, I would visit it with friends. We would picnic and draw and play around. It was an exciting place for me, Adel Woods...
- In: Henry Moore: My ideas, inspiration and life as an artist, Henry Moore and John Hedgecoe, Ebury Press London 1986 p. 21
- The creative habit is like a drug. The particular obsession changes, but the excitement, the thrill of your creation lasts.
- Quoted in: Eric Maisel, Ann Maisel (2010) Brainstorm: Harnessing the Power of Productive Obsessions. p. 95
- All art should have a certain mystery and should make demands on the spectator. Giving a sculpture or a drawing too explicit a title takes away part of that mystery so that the spectator moves on to the next object, making no effort to ponder the meaning of what he has just seen. Everyone thinks that he or she looks but they don't really, you know.
Quotes about Henry Moore
- Whatever may be the reaction of the average man to the originality of these works of art, he will be bound to recognise in them the expression of a consistent purpose of great force, a personal will to dominate material and form that refuses to be balked by any conventions.’
- w:Herbert Read, in 'Henry Moore', Listener, vol.5. no.119, 22 April 1931, p. 689
- The hole did not arrive until 1932 in Hampstead, when Henry Moore finally exploited its potentialities and made it central to his work.
- w:A. M. Hammacher, in Barbara Hepworth, 2nd ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, (1987), p. 40
- The comparisons and contrasts between these two artists [ Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth ] are astounding. They went to the same schools, were part of the same artist movements like the 'Seven and Five Society' and 'Unit One', they spent summer holidays together - Henry Moore even lived in one of Barbara Hepworth’s old houses after she had moved to the country. The influence between the two, whether conscious or subconscious, cannot be denied. The discrepancies of who did what first [ piercing the stone / making a hole] feels insignificant when you consider all they have done in reflection of each other.
- Lori Brookhart-Schervish, in 'Hepworth & Moore - Piercing Holes, Shaping Space', 22 Jan. 2011, see