The present work derives from a series of monumental sculptures that Moore conceived in the mid-1960s, commencing with Three Way Piece No.1: Points (1964-1965, LH 533) and Three Way Piece No.2: (The) Archer (1964-1965, LH 535). The "three ways" in the title of the earlier works similarly refer to the large, multifaceted trunk of the present Torso, which allows for interpretation from several different angles. In contrast to Moore's figurative, pierced or interlocking forms, Torso belongs to a body of works that can be referred to as compact forms. Although dense in mass, there is an overall sense of internal movement and recoiled tension, emphasized by the inclusion of a pointing motive in another version of the present work (Torso with Point, 1967, LH 570), which became a prominent feature of Moore's later sculptures.
The inspiration for Moore's monumental sculptures came in part from Stonehenge, which he first visited in the fall of 1921. "As it was a clear evening I got to Stonehenge and saw it by moonlight," he later wrote. "I was alone and terribly impressed. Moonlight, as you know, enlarges everything, and the mysterious depths and distance made it seem enormous. I went again the next morning, it was still very impressive, but that first moonlight visit remained for ideas my idea of Stonehenge" (quoted in A.G. Wilkinson, Henry Moore Remembered: The Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, exh. cat., 1987, p. 49).
As his work progressed, Moore transformed these ancient architectural elements into to an expressively anthropomorphic form. He wrote in his notebooks in 1941, "I myself in my work tend to humanise everything, to relate mountains to people, tree trunks to the human body, pebbles to heads & figures, etc." (quoted in ibid., p. 114). In a discussion that same year with novelist V. S. Pritchett, the painter Graham Sutherland and renowned art historian Sir Kenneth Clark, Moore stated, "in almost all of my carvings there has been an organic idea in my mind. I think of it as having a head, body, limbs, and as the piece of stone or wood I carve evolves from the first roughing-out stages it begins to take on a definite human personality and character. And to bring the work to its final conclusion involves one's whole psychological make-up and whatever one can draw upon and make use of from the sum of one's human and form experience" (quoted in ibid., p. 126).