The seventh child of Raymond Spencer and Mary Moore, Henry Moore was born in Castleford, Yorkshire in 1898. His paternal great-grandfather was of Irish origin, but his father and grandfather were born in Yorkshire where, for two or three generations, they worked the land or went down the mines. At the age of twelve Moore obtained a grant to study at the Grammar School in Castleford where he was inspired by his art teacher to pursue a career in the arts. In 1916 he began to teach, but by February 1917 he had joined the army and left to fight in France.
After being wounded in action in November 1917 at the battle of Cambrai, Moore was excused from active service. He returned to England, where he became a physical education instructor in the army. At the end of the war, Moore received a veteran’s grant to study at Leeds School of Art and in 1921 he joined a course at the Royal College of Art in London. A further grant enabled him to travel extensively from 1925, visiting Rome, Florence, Venice, Ravenna and Paris, where he met Picasso, Giacometti, Ernst, Eluard and Breton among others.
On returning from his travels Moore was appointed Professor of Sculpture at the Royal College of Art where he worked two days a week until 1931, as well as teaching at the Chelsea School of Art until 1939. He was appointed an Official War Artist during the Second World War from 1940–1942 for which he made a series of drawings of people sheltering in the London Underground, as well as studies of miners at the coal face. In these pictures he frequently used watercolour over wax crayon.
After the war Moore enjoyed a great deal of success, with his works receiving critical acclaim all around the world. He executed many major commissions for museums, public institutions, private collectors and municipal buildings and as a result he became one of the most famous British artists of the twentieth century.
At the beginning of the 1970s Moore created a foundation, the aim of which was to promote public awareness of sculpture and to protect his own work for the future. Located in his home village of Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, the foundation houses a library, archives and a collection of drawings, prints, maquettes and sculptures by the artist. Heavily influenced by the work of Michelangelo, Moore created monumental works in marble, stone and bronze and was enthralled by the theme of the family, and in particular the mother and child. His unique oeuvre draws inspiration from prehistoric, archaic, Egyptian, African, Mexican and Roman sculpture. Throughout his career he was noted for his output of graphic art – drawings, watercolours, etchings and lithographs which were not necessarily related to individual sculptures.