Goslar Warrior is the culmination of a rare theme within Henry Moore's oeuvre. This monumental sculpture belongs to one of only six life-sized renditions of the male form that Moore tackled throughout his lengthy career. Three of these figures were dedicated to the theme of the wounded warrior, of which Goslar Warrior is the last. Executed in 1973-1974, this variation of the warrior can be seen as the final step in a sequence of figural movements that starts with the seated Warrior with Shield of 1953-1954 and continues with the convulsive Falling Warrior of 1956-1957. With these works, spaced out over many years, Moore has charted the terrible outcome of combat, with each version exuding a greater aura of pathos than the last. Whereas Moore's earlier warriors cling to their shields with the final vestiges of hopeful defence, this armless figure has dropped his means of protection and is completely exposed to his unseen adversary. He is no longer the falling warrior; he has fallen. His twisted, supine body conjures up the moment of agony before death, as he hovers just above the ground, drawing on his final reserves of strength before the ultimate collapse. The level of intense pathos and restrained tragedy is extremely touching.
The subject of the warrior sees Moore engaging in a legacy of sculptural imagery that dates back to antiquity. The overtones of Ancient Greece are unmistakable -- the shield and the suggestion of a helmet make it clear this soldier has nothing to do with high-tech modern warfare. He is an archetypal soldier who has been defeated in a murderous battle such as Homer sings of, or which can be seen in the pedimental sculptures of the Temple of Aphaia, dedicated to Zeus and Athena. This direct reference to Greco-Roman art is a complete contrast to Moore's early sculptures where he deliberately circumvented any reference to classical models, preferring instead to engage with the vitality of tribal art forms from Africa and South America. The decisive turning point came during Moore's appointment as an official war artist. His naturalistic drawings of blanketed people sheltering in the London Underground during the Second World War introduced drapery as a new means of conveying physical tension and inner, psychological content. It was also the medium that encouraged his new appreciation of the human form as depicted in classical statuary.
Moore's firsthand experience of Greece in 1951 gave him further cause to re-assess this sculptural tradition. Classical Greek sculpture now had an increasing impact on his work, which became apparent in the draped reclining figures and torsos of 1952-1953, and the maquettes that resulted in Warrior with Shield. 'The idea for The Warrior came to me at the end of 1952 or very early in 1953,' Moore explained. 'It was evolved from a pebble I found on the seashore in the summer of 1952. This sculpture is the first single and separate male figure that I have done in sculpture and carrying it out in its final large scale was almost like the discovery of a new subject matter; the bony, edgy, tense forms were a great excitement to make... Like the bronze Draped Reclining Figure of 1952-1953 I think The Warrior has some Greek influence, not consciously wished for but perhaps the result of my visit to Athens and other parts of Greece in 1951' (Moore quoted in P. James, ed., Henry Moore on Sculpture: a Collection of the Sculptor's Writings and Spoken Words, London 1966, p. 250).
Although clearly descended from hallowed antiquity, the Goslar Warrior has undergone a dramatic transformation. In this piece, Moore has refined and condensed the sense of tragic defiance and dramatic struggle that characterise his earlier versions of the subject. He has also rendered the figure more abstract, less representational and in consequence, even stronger. Here, the wounded warrior is reduced to a solid, strong block struggling to support his fallen shield. His cantilevered body is largely inspired by the shape of a flint stone, which is most clearly articulated in the formation of the leg and hip. The soldier's hollowed eye-sockets and the extended bridge of his nose have the angular suggestion of a helmet, yet the ears are also visible, seemingly underlining the soldier's vulnerability and humanity. Another significant literal feature is the pronounced ribcage that strains outwards against the figure's skin, lending it a sense of organic energy and impending movement. The sculpture crystallises the figurative form to its essential elements, eliminating descriptive detail for greater expressive force. In this way, Moore has found the perfect balance between timelessness and modernity, where the ancient image of the fallen combatant has become a poignant symbol of an age scarred by violent conflicts.
This latest version of the warrior was being cast by the Noack foundry in Berlin when Moore discovered he had been nominated for a prestigious new art prize being awarded by the town of Goslar in northern Germany. Together with the award of the 'Kaiserring' -- a handsome jewel carved with the image of Henry II came a commission for a major work funded by the newly established Kaiserring Foundation. Moore visited Goslar in 1975 to see possible sites and consider which of his works would be appropriate. It was then he decided to make available a cast of the new warrior figure just being completed. He sited the sculpture in the Pfalzgarten (Imperial Palace Garden) and changed its name to Goslar Warrior in deference to the honour being shown him by the small historic town.
Between the end of 2007 and throughout 2008, the Henry Moore Foundation organised a seminal series of exhibitions from their core collection, which started in London, at Kew Gardens, and continued in the United States, in the Botanical Gardens of New York, Atlanta and Denver. All the most important monumental sculptures by the artist were featured, in curated juxtapositions where the artist's large scale works were shown in the expansive landscapes for which Moore originally conceived them. Just as the visitors can now feel the magic of Perry Green, in Hertfordshire, and admire the sculptures with the inspiring backdrop of the English countryside, so Moore in America has complemeted these wonderful creations with the most dramatic contexts. The Foundation cast of the Goslar Warrior was featured in these exhibitions, and found in each location a new way to shine, through its powerful and tragic beauty.