Although Henry Moore is principally known for his sculpture, including monumental works permanently installed in public spaces across the world, etchings and lithographs are a more intimate and equally important element of his creative process.
Quotes below by David Mitchinson, former Head of Collections and Exhibitions at Henry Moore Foundation, and a long standing friend of the artist.
‘Moore was always involved with drawing. It was really the basis of his work. He had a drawing studio very close to his house, and he would go there most working days to work on sketchbooks or prints. He would make paints from sculpture, and vice versa – he would make prints with ideas that would later turn into sculpture.’
Henry Moore’s story as an artist started in 1898, in an English town called Castleford, West Yorkshire, about 10 miles from Leeds which is the local metropolis. At the beginning of his career Moore worked principally on carvings, in both wood and stone, for which he would draw sketches on paper. When, around 1935, the size of these carvings began to increase, he would make small, preliminary studies in three dimensions known as maquettes, which were then enlarged to big monumental works.
‘Moore liked to work with simple domestic subjects. He wasn’t interested in anything grandiose or militaristic. His sculpture is based on human forms mixed in with natural objects and with landscape.’
‘Moore never had to look for subject matter, it was all around him: the trees in his garden, his own hands, little objects he collected in his studios – bones, shells, flints, pieces of roots, pieces of bark, natural objects.’
‘There are certain themes in Moore’s work that you can find in graphics, drawings and sculpture, and one of these is the mother and child. It’s something that fascinated Moore from a very early age and his last portfolio of graphics made shortly before he died was made of 30 subjects on mother and child theme.
‘Another the theme that runs all through Moore’s work is that of the internal-external form. It manifests itself in a number of different ways: sometimes as a head, a helmet head, sometimes as a body with something inside it.’
‘The reclining figure was probably Moore’s most important theme and he never gave it up. It existed in his work from the 1920s right until he died in the 1980s. He made carvings, bronzes, drawings, graphics and tapestries; you can find it in his textile designs. Moore’s reclining figure was always female, it was giving birth, it was large, it had weight, it had depth, it was very three-dimensional.’