He was the seventh child in a poor family of 8 children. His father worked in a colliery but wanted his children to avoid working in the mines. The children were educated at a local school.
He developed an interest and talent in art. This helped him to get a scholarship to Castleford Secondary school. When he was 18, he was called up to the army. He was injured during a gas attach in 1917.
"I’m very grateful that I was too poor to get to art school until I was 21… I was old enough when I got there to know how to get something out of it." - Henry Moore
Moore was a talented and adventurous student.
He already experimented with new styles and this often conflicted with his teachers who were trying to teach the classic style. Henry Moore was attracted to a more spontaneous art form.
He could view the the great Masters such as Michelangelo and Giovanni Pisano. But Moore was also influenced by his studies of primitive art. At the Louvre he was also inspired by theT oltec-Maya sculptural form, the Chac Mool.
"A sculptor is a person who is interested in the shape of things, a poet in words, a musician by sounds."
Moore became an active member of the informal modern art movement, centred around the ideas and innovation of people like Pablo Picasso and Jean Arp. He also briefly flirted with the surrealist movement.
The Second World War led to more traditional commissions and Moore worked as a war artist producing memorable pictures such as images of civilians fleeing the Blitz in the London underground.
This helped Moore’s reputation and after the war led to numerous awards and opportunities in America. In 1948 he was awarded the International Sculpture Prize at the Venice Biennale. Significant commissions included.
The reason for the knighthood is that he didn’t want to be seen as an establishment figure. Yet, during his lifetime he became one of the most influential sculptors of his generation.
He instituted a charitable trust to promote art education and the support of young artists. He was a man of modest means. Despite his wealth and fame he lived frugally remembering his Yorkshire roots.
“The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for the rest of your life. And the most important thing is, it must be something you cannot possibly do.” - Henry Moore