Helmet Head and Shoulders, Henry Moore
At a glance
Artist: Henry Moore
Materials: Bronze on a wood base
Acquisition: Hussey Bequest, Chichester District Council (1985)
The subject of the helmet appears many times in Henry Moore’s work. He described it as ‘a recording of things inside other things’. The metal wings that appear to embrace the inner space of this sculpture recall Moore’s ongoing theme – the mother and child.
Another of Moore’s works with a similar format is Suckling Child. This small alabaster sculpture shows a child breastfeeding and is also part of our founding collection. The alabaster sculpture imitates the softness and colour of flesh. In contrast, Helmet Head and Shoulders is cast in bronze. This is a material associated with tools, weaponry and armour.
Moore has included a sharp incision over the face of the helmet. This only allows the viewer a restricted view into the dark void where a head should be positioned. The shoulders have been detailed with a section of concentric circles. These manage to emphasise the round shape of the abstracted human form and also recalls the overlapping panels of medieval plate armour. Although this sculpture is small, it feels substantial, and even threatening in its stance. Yet the points of contact on the wooden base are minimal and almost delicate.
Henry Moore was one of the most important British sculptors of the 20th century. He was one of the most popular and internationally celebrated sculptors of the post-war period. Both African and Oceanic art were crucial in shaping his early work while the leading European modernists, Picasso, Arp, Brancusi and Giacometti became his later influences. By the 1930s, Moore’s reputation as an avant-garde artist had grown. During the Second World War he was made an official war artist. His images of people sheltering in the London underground during the Blitz made him famous. It is likely that Moore’s experience of warfare in both the First and Second World Wars influenced his continued use of the head and helmet.