Henry Moore (1898-1986) focused on the hole, or void, as an important element in sculptural design. His well-known reclining female nudes combine the organic jargon central to Moore’s philosophy: bone shapes, eroded rocks, and geologic formations to communicate the human form’s fluidity, dynamism, and evocative nature. The reclining figures were originally inspired by a photograph Moore acquired of a Chac Mool from pre-Colombian Mexico. They are distinctive of Moore’s work in exploiting the natural beauty of different materials: he asserted that every material has its own individual qualities and these qualities could play a role in the creative process.
The abstracted shapes suggest Surrealist biomorphic forms, but Moore’s leaning women are also powerful earth mothers whose sinuous forms and hollows suggest nurturing human energy. Furthermore, the female body shapes evoke the contours of the Yorkshire hills of Moore’s childhood and the wind-polished surfaces of weathered wood and stone. Moore enhanced the references to landscape and to Surrealist organic forms by alternating mass and void, based on the enthralling qualities of cavities in nature. The hole was not an abstract shape. It represented the mysterious fascination of caves in hillsides and cliffs.
Henry Moore’s sculptures, although abstracted, always remain recognizable. Moore alleged that the simple and massive shapes of his statues expressed a universal truth beyond the physical world. As he said, “My sculpture is becoming less representational, less an outward visual copy […] but only because I believe that in this way I can present the human psychological content of my work with greatest directness and intensity.”