Henry Moore is a household name: his work dominated the sculptural world of the twentieth century and has functioned as a seminal influence for a new generation of young artists. He is known primarily for his large-scale abstract cast bronze and carved marble sculptures, which are characteristically pierced, or contain hollow voids. The subjects are generally abstractions of the human figure: typically reclining figures or mother and child groupings.
The young Moore famously rejected the traditional classically derived ideas prevalent during his time as a student: Pre-Columbian and African tribal art, as well as the sculptors Brancusi, Epstein and Dobson, provided the major references for his early work. He was later influenced by two opposing developments of Surrealism and Abstraction – most notably by Picasso, Breton, Arp and Giacommetti.
His early work was characterized by a deeply romantic English lyricism and an innate sympathy with landscape and natural forms. He rejected established academic sculptural practices and insisted on direct carvings, in which imperfections in the materials and tool marks are incorporated into the finished piece. However, as he began to work in a more monumental scale he largely abandoned this technique as a matter of practicality, and began to increasingly produce work by modeling and casting via the lost wax process.
While critics largely condemned his revolutionary early work, Moore went on to become substantially supported by the British art establishment (for example, by the end of the 1970s there were some forty exhibitions a year featuring his work). He undertook numerous public commissions and before his death set up the Henry Moore Foundation 'to advance the education of the public by the promotion of their appreciation of the fine arts and in particular the works of Henry Moore'.