Henry Moore’s sculptures were most commonly very simple solid images. Many were of women, perhaps to celebrate their role in society and show their strength. Moore’s mother was a strong woman and it is apparent through his work that he viewed women as the crux of the family. The women depicted in his sculptures are sturdy and heavy looking which confirms this. One sculpture which displays this quality of his work is his Seated and Draped Figure crafted in bronze which depicts an exaggeratedly broad woman positioned as the name of the sculpture suggests.
Moore looked at the female figure as a landscape and it is possible to see the similarities between the rolling lines of the figures in his sculptures and the moors where he grew up.
One of Moore’s favoured subject matters is the reclining figure. He has several works depicting the reclining female form done in a variety of techniques and materials. To name a few examples the Reclining Figure is carved out of elmwood, while Recumbent Figure is a stone sculpture. Recumbent figure is also a good example of how Moore was able to synthesise the subject matter of the woman and make the sculpture quite abstract without losing the strong sense of the human form.
The Recumbent figure features a hole in its centre which is not uncommon in Moore’s work. He likes to focus on negative spaces as he finds them just as important a part of the rest of the sculpture. The void spaces in the sculptures also add a touch of mystery to his work which is the central theme in his bronze Double Oval. Double Oval is also good example of a typical piece of Moore’s work in that it focuses on the undulating lines that are often in his works, and it is also simplistic, dominant and quite monumental. It is also intended, like many of his sculpture to sit outdoors.
Another such outdoor sculpture is Moore’s King and Queen. The two were specially designed to sit outside on a weather beaten Scottish moor. In this sculpture Moore has taken advantage of the weather blasted location to use the patina technique. He once said that ‘I use patina the opposite of the way a woman uses face powder, to amplify contours rather than minimise them.’ This is precisely what he has done in King and Queen which depicts two tall, proud figures, a king and queen, sitting bolt upright in their thrones overlooking the landscape before them.
Moore also gets the contoured look mentioned above by leaving his chisel marks, an inspiration he may have got from the much admired unfinished works of Michaelangelo. Another source of inspiration in Moore’s work is Masaccio, a Renaissance painter who managed to do very well in capturing the third dimension in his paintings which gave his figures weight. This admiration is reflected in Moore’s sculptures as they concentrate on the weight of the bodies he depicts.
Other culture’s art such as Aztec, Celtic and African work also are reflected in some of his sculptures. He liked the African’s simple style in particular. The Aztecs also used a lot of stone in their sculptures, stone being one of Moore’s favoured materials along with wood and plaster.
Henry Moore as you can see has developed a very distinctive style. He has collected influences for this style from various sources from other cultures to landscapes to his own life. This makes his work uniquely his and I think this is a strong aspect that draws people to his work.
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