Henry Moore was born in Yorkshire, the son of a miner. He fought in the First World War, and his ex-serviceman’s grant enabled him to enrol at Leeds School of Art in 1919. Barbara Hepworth was a fellow-student there, and the two formed what was to be a life-long friendship. Moore won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London in 1921, where he remained for three years. In 1924 he won a travelling scholarship and went to Italy for six months, where he studied the Old Masters, in particular Michelangelo and Giotto. He taught sculpture at the Royal College of Art from 1925 to 1932, and at Chelsea School of Art from 1932 to 1939.
During the 1930s Moore lived and worked in Hampstead, at the Mall Studios, where he was closely associated with Barbara Hepworth and her husband Ben Nicholson, Naum Gabo and Herbert Read, the art critic. Moore, Nicholson and Hepworth made frequent trips to Paris and were influenced by their contacts with leading French artists like Braque, Picasso, Giacometti and Arp. In the 1930s Moore’s work became increasingly abstract: he was a member of the avant-garde 7 & 5 Society and Unit One, as well as of the London Group. He participated in the International Surrealist exhibition in London in 1936, for which he was on the organising committee, and in Paris in 1938.
In 1940 Moore and his wife Irina moved from London to Perry Green, near Much Hadham in Hertfordshire, where he was to remain for the rest of his life. His house and studio there are now the home of the Henry Moore Foundation. During the Second World War Moore was an Official War Artist and made a series of drawings of people sheltering in the London Underground, as well as of miners working down the mines.
Throughout his life Moore carried out many commissions for public sculptures. The first, in 1928-29, was for a figure on St James’s Park underground station in London. Other commissions include that for the UNESCO building in Paris (1957), Knife Edge Two Pieces (1962) for College Green, opposite the Houses of Parliament in London, Nuclear Energy (1967) for the University of Chicago, and many others worldwide. Moore was also the recipient of many international prizes: at the Venice Biennale in 1948, in Sao Paolo in 1953 and in Pittsburgh in 1958. He was a trustee of the Tate Gallery from 1941 to 1956, and of the National Gallery from 1956. Moore was a member of the Royal Fine Art Commission, and served on the Art Panel of the Arts Council. He was made a Companion of Honour in 1955, and received the Order of Merit in 1963.