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Born the seventh of eight children of a coal mining family in Castleford, Yorkshire in 1898, Henry Moore did well in school completing his Cambridge Leaving Certificate in 1916, which permitted him to teach primary school. He discovered the British Museum and the National Gallery on his first visit to London in 1917 when he joined the 15th London Regiment. Sent to the front in France, he was gassed at Cambrai and repatriated to England by December of the same year.
After Armistice, a Veterans’ study grant permitted him to attend the Leeds School of Art from 1919-21, where he was first introduced to contemporary French art through the Vice-Chancellor’s collection. Moore then won a Royal Exhibition Scholarship in 1921 to study sculpture at the Royal College of Art, London, where he also taught from 1924-31.
In 1923, he visited Paris for the first time and returned almost every year thereafter. Winning a travel bursary in 1925, he spent six months travelling through Italy and France, absorbing such diverse influences as Giotto, Masaccio, Michaelangelo, and Picasso.
The Warren Gallery of London gave Moore his first one-man show in 1928 and, in the same year, he obtained his first public commission - to carve a relief in stone for a façade of the new Underground headquarters in St. James’ Park, London.
Moore married Irina Radetzky, a painting student from the RCA, in 1929, settling into a studio in Hampstead. He joined his friends, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson in the avant-garde Seven and Five Society in 1930. By this time, he was experimenting with abstract forms and benefitting from numerous solo exhibitions. In 1932, he became the first head of the new sculpture department at the Chelsea School of Art.
At the outbreak of WWII, their Hampstead studio was bombed during the Blitz and the Moores moved to a farmhouse in Hertfordshire. Appointed as an Official War Artist, he made a series of drawings of people sheltering in the London Underground, as well as studies of miners at the coalface. Moore’s work was still the subject of a number of shows and he even had his first American show in 1943 at the Bucholz Gallery in New York.
In 1946, Moore not only became a father for the first time but also was given his first overseas retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which travelled to Chicago and San Francisco. By the early 1950s, after winning the International Sculpture Prize at the Venice Biennale of 1948, Moore was well known internationally, enjoying seemingly endless honours and accolades from Australia to Belgium, from Brazil to Sweden.
Moore died in 1986 at Perry Green, his farmhouse in Hertfordshire.