6 – 20 OCTOBERSmall is Beautiful: The Art of SculptureBid Now
The unique work Small Helmet Head, 1950, is one of the finest examples of Henry Moore’s helmet head series. This piece, currently offered in Small is Beautiful: The Art of Sculpture, comes from the collection of the family of Harry A. Brooks, who had a long and distinguished career in the New York art industry and enjoyed a close friendship with Moore.
Interior Figure of Henry Moore, Small Helmet Head, 1950; bronze with a green and dark brown patina; 4 3/8 in. (11.2 cm.) high, excluding the base; Executed in 1950, this work is unique. © 2015 The Henry Moore Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Find this piece and other exceptional small-scale sculptural works in Small is Beautiful: The Art of Sculpture.
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 1950 with Small Helmet Head. 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.
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 this idea, abstracting shapes and manipulating the elasticity of form to create new and original works. The organic curved, hollowed form of Small Helmet Head 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 tone brings harmony to the work, marrying the seemingly two separate internal and external entities.
One of Moore’s most valuable strengths was his ability to present universal symbols... which could be understood internationally but in turn would resonate on a personal level
Although abstract in form Small Helmet Head 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. Introduced into the artist’s repertoire shortly after the First World War, the aesthetic of the helmet would have been a potent sign, capturing the individual and the hazards imposed on them by war.
Henry Moore, Small Helmet Head, 1950; bronze with a green and dark brown patina; 4 3/8 in. (11.2 cm.) high, excluding the base; Executed in 1950, this work is unique. © 2015 The Henry Moore Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Find this piece and other exceptional small-scale sculptural works in Small is Beautiful: The Art of Sculpture.
Using the symbol of the helmet, Moore also explored 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 defence, protection and security these advances offered, Moore offers a valuable insight into the 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 the newspaper Die Welt writing that his work represented ‘all of us in our Western impotence against mass and the machine.’
The 1950s brought great acclaim for the artist, both at home and abroad, thanks to the success of his one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1946 and his award of the international sculpture prize at the Venice Biennale in 1948. During this period Moore held two retrospective exhibitions, first at the Tate Gallery in 1951 and later at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1961. He also received a series of important commissions, such as a large reclining figure for the Festival of Britain in 1951 by The Arts Council, a vast carving for the UNESCO building in 1958 and the bronze relief Time-life for the adornment of a roof terrace on Bond Street.
Moore’s Small Helmet Head is a work with a rich backstory and a significance that inspires the intimate contemplation so central to the notion that Small is Beautiful. View this exceptional piece among a curated collection of other small-scale sculptures in the Small is Beautiful online auction.