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1972 - 1986: Ensuring a Legacy

Throughout Moore's life his career continued to accelerate and international exhibitions became increasingly ambitious.

In 1972 the largest exhibition of Moore's work to date was staged by the British Council and opened by Princess Margaret in the exquisite setting of the Forte di Belvedere, Florence.

No better site for showing sculpture in the open-air, in relationship to architecture, & to a town, could be found anywhere in the world, than the Forte di Belvedere, with its impressive environs & its wonderful panoramic views of the city. – Yet its own powerful grandeur and architectural monumentality make it a frightening competitor for any sculpture – and so I know that showing my work here would be a formidable challenge, but one I should accept.

Henry Moore, undated letter to Luciano Bausi, reproduced in Mostra di Henry Moore, Il Bisonte Editore/Nuovedizioni Enrico Vallecchi

Florence 1972, p.17

The British Council remained unrelenting in the promotion of Moore, who they championed more than any other artist. He said 'the British Council did more for me as an artist than any dealer'. Their support resulted in exhibitions all over the world including Australia, Belgium, Holland, Greece, Yugoslavia and Poland. In 1981 they organised the largest ever exhibition of Moore's work, comprised of almost 600 works, which toured to Madrid, Lisbon and Barcelona and attracted over 250,000 visitors.

Whilst international exhibitions attested to Moore's continuing dominance in the field of contemporary sculpture, he had begun to consider his legacy. In 1967 he had initaited a plan to create the Henry Moore Centre, which finally opened at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1974. Moore donated 101 sculptures, 57 drawings and 200 prints to Ontario for permanent display in a newly designed gallery. 

In 1977 he set up the Henry Moore Foundation to administer the sale and exhibition of his work in perpetuity.

The following year, in 1978 Moore gave 36 sculptures and a complete set of his graphics to Tate. Moore had promised a gift to the British nation in 1964 but complications over the terms and negative publicity meant that it took years to finalise. Confusion arouse when the gift was announced in 1964 by the then Prime Minister, who concurrently pledged £200,000 for new galleries at Tate. This resulted in the public and a host of other British artists opposing the gift, as they believed it was conditional on being displayed in these new galleries, which they felt should not be reserved for a single artist. The terms were finally agreed in time for Moore's eightieth birthday when the gift was exhibited alongside an exhibition of his drawings.

In 1982 the Henry Moore Sculpture Gallery and Centre for the Study of Sculpture opened at Leeds City Art Gallery.

A few years before his death, Henry and Irina gave the Perry Green estate with its land and studios along with the remaining collection of his work to the Henry Moore Foundation. This allowed the Foundation to continue to promote his work through exhibitions and to offer grants for the support of sculptural commissions, acquisitions and research.

Moore died at the age of 88 at Perry Green on 31 August 1986 survived by Irina who later died in 1989 and their daughter Mary.