Henry Moore, O.M., C.H. (1898-1986)
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Henry Moore, O.M., C.H. (1898-1986)

Helmet Head no. 4: Interior-Exterior

Henry Moore, O.M., C.H. (1898-1986)
Helmet Head no. 4: Interior-Exterior
signed and numbered 'Moore 1/6' (on the base)
bronze with a brown patina
18½ in. (47 cm.) high
Conceived in 1963.
Dr. A.W. Bechtler, Zurich, and by descent.
A. Bowness (ed.), Henry Moore Sculpture and drawings, Volume 3 1955-64, London, 1965, p. 32, no. 508, pl. 155.
Exhibition catalogue, Sammlungen Hans und Walter Bechtler, Zurich, Im Kunsthaus, 1982, pp. 118, 179, illustrated.
P. McCaughey, Henry Moore and the Heroic A Centenary Tribute, New Haven, 1999, no. 19, another cast illustrated.

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Lot Essay

One of Moore's most potent symbols was that of the helmet head; a motif the artist developed in the late 1930s and continued to use throughout his lifetime, revisiting it again in 1963 with the present lot. Inspired by the New Ireland Malanggan figures and Dogon Mother Masks he saw as a young man and an image of two prehistoric Greek utensils he came across in the 1934 Cahiers d'art, Moore began to experiment with the relationship between internal and external forms; a dialogue he would continue to explore throughout his lifetime. First depicted in a sketchbook page of 1939 entitled Two Heads: Drawing for Metal Sculpture; where two entrapped metal heads are seen floating in a gloomy half-light, Moore soon began to develop hisideas, abstracting shapes, testing and manipulating the elasticity of form to create new and original works. Helmet Head No. 4: Interior - Exterior is one of the finest and most unusual examples of the series. The organic curved, hollowed form reveals the hidden interior figure, seen poking out from underneath the hood-like shape, its half-seen outline encouraging an air of intrigue, willing closer inspection. The green earthy patina juxtaposed with the metallic bronze tone brings harmony to the work, marrying the seemingly two separate entities.

Although abstract in form Helmet Head No. 4: Interior - Exterior does not lose its humanistic quality, a practice Moore saw as paramount to design, citing the 'psychological human element' as essential in all his works. Moore believed that good sculpture was about opening one's eyes to the outside world, not shutting it off from reality. One of Moore's most valuable strengths was his ability to present universal symbols, such as the helmet head or the mother and child, which could be understood internationally but in turn would resonate on a personal level. The helmet is one of the most effective and powerful of Moore's motifs. Introduced into the artist's repertoire shortly after the First World War, the aesthetic of the helmet would have been a potent sign, one extricable with the horrors of warfare. Moving away from depicting the sufferings of the collective, portrayed huddled together in the London underground tunnels, Moore sought to capture the individual and the menace imposed on them by war.

Using the symbol of the helmet, Moore explored the associations of external threat to the individual, creating a series of claustrophobic constrictions and manipulations in bronze, which violently reshapes the space of the figure, entrapping them within an outer shell. This practice of Moore's conveyed the threat people felt by the developments in technology and machinery, in an age where weaponry was at the forefront of technological development. Capturing the notions of external danger, entrapment and hostility, whilst also exploring the ideas of defense, protection and security these advances offered, Moore offers a valuable insight intothe political and social attitudes of the day. German critics viewing Helmet Head No. 1, at Moore's 1950 exhibition in Hamburg, saw the artist's work as a commentary against the new mechanical world, with paper Die Welt writing that his work represented 'all of us in our Western impotence against mass and the machine.' Helmet Head No. 4: Interior - Exterior, although later in date than some of the earlier examples, continues to reference the First and Second World War. The enclosed mask-like form of the piece can be seen to resemble a gas mask, or by some an atom bomb, a subject he would continue to explore in his later piece Nuclear Energy, executed four years later in 1967.

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