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1926 - 1939: Carving a Sculptural Career

By the end of the 1920s Moore had assimilated the early teaching and influences of his student years and devloped his own unique modernist aesthetic. In the 1930s he began to establish a formidable international reputation.     

Whilst still a student, Moore had already begun to emerge as an artist of note on the London art scene. In 1924 he took part in his first group exhibition at the Redfern Gallery, London. In the same year, he began to rent space to work at Grove Studios in Hammersmith. In 1928 he held his first solo exhibition at the Warren Gallery, London, which consisted of forty-two sculptures and fifty-one drawings. Moore was delighted with the reception of the show.

“[Dorothy Warren] sold £90 worth of my things – thirty drawings at £1 each, several to Epstein, several to Augustus John, and Henry Lamb – it was mostly other artists, and established ones, who bought, and that was a great encouragement to me. ”

Henry Moore, in ‘Conversations with Henry Moore’, John and Vera Russell,

Sunday Times, 17 December 1961

 

It was also in 1928 that Moore received his first major public commission. Completed in 1929, he produced a carved relief of West Wind for the facade of the new headquarters of the London Underground at St. James's. Moore was one of seven artists commissioned by the architect Charles Holden to produce new work, among them Jacob Epstein. The influence of Epstein on Moore and that of the 'primitive' carvings he had seen at the British Museum as a student, can be readily seen in the bold and powerful figure.    

In 1928 Moore's personal life was no less exciting. Whilst still teaching at the Royal College in London he met Irina Radetsky, a painting student. The couple were married a year later. As a fellow artist Moore cherished Irina's opinion throughout his career. Together they moved to a home and studio in Hampstead, London which was then a hub of artistic activity. In the 1920s and ‘30s their neighbours included Marcel Breuer, Naum Gabo, Barbara Hepworth, László Moholy-Nagy, Paul Nash, Ben Nicholson, Roland Penrose and Herbert Read.

Whilst Moore enjoyed his position at the forefront of the avant-garde, within this supportive creative network, and was in receipt of increasing critical attention following numerous exhibitions, his new modernist aesthetic was too unconventional for many traditional critics. In 1931 Moore decided to resign from the Royal College of Art after a vicious press campaign against him was incited by his colleagues. In the same year he became the first Head of Sculpture in a new department at Chelsea School of Art. This was a post he held until 1939. 

What makes this kind of work all the more deplorable is that Mr Moore is paid by the nation to train its young men and women to become teachers or professional sculptors … Frankly, we think that Mr Moore’s work is a menace from which students at the Royal College should be protected.

Morning Post,

14 April 1931

 

Moore's new role at Chelsea School of Art still allowed him time to focus on his own work. In the 1930s the Leicester Galleries in London staged three solo exhibitions of the artist's work. Although most of Moore's output was destined for these shows he also participated in numerous group exhibitions during the decade, most notably the International Surrealist Exhibition in London and Cubism and Abstract Art at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, both in 1936.