Henry Moore put modern sculpture on the map. Everybody has heard of him; a first in our field. But it's not just about fame he changed public perceptions of art.
In the 1930s his sculptures were highly original carvings, mostly in stone. They were a radical break from what had gone before; he had learned from pre-Columbian carvings the lessons of distortion in order to achieve simplicity and mass. Although he was in touch with the world of avant-garde Paris and his work sometimes has a surrealist nuance, he always paid close attention to the art of the past, whether in the Western tradition or from primitive cultures.
In the 1950s I was working as his studio assistant and he had turned to modeling for casting in bronze. Starting from notebook drawings, he often worked in plaster on a tiny scale, incorporating pebbles or bones into his maquettes. When he was modeling in wax he cut the sheets like a tailor, bending them and dipping parts into boiling water to soften them. Enlarged to life size or over, these works became the Family Group, now in the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, the King and Queen and the well-known reclining figures.
Moore's work is never cold. Whether figurative or abstract, it always shows warm human feeling. His bronzes seem to echo the landscape, and he placed them superbly. The smooth organic surfaces and in particular the holes in them made his works easily recognizable as his own. Natural forms gave him freedom of expression.
Despite his burgeoning fame his work was exhibited all over the world he remained down-to-earth and unpretentious. A retrospective show of his sculpture in New Zealand as early as 1956 was seen by tens of thousands of Aucklanders; it was a wake-up call. Initial shock was followed by acceptance and affection.
His pieces in important sites in European and American cities accustomed the general public to nonrealistic sculpture in urban settings. Moore's breaking of the barriers around the art of sculpture granted to younger sculptors the confidence to experiment. His vision is one of the factors that has led to sculpture's primacy among the visual arts of our time.