Henry Moore on why humans need art to live

As part of our Creative Matters spotlight series we’re rerunning a collection of articles that first appeared in Student Magazine. First up, we hear from celebrated British sculptor Henry Moore.

Student Magazine, launched in 1968, was Richard Branson’s first business venture upon leaving school and adopted a creative approach to tackling tough issues. The publication was an alternative to the stale publications of the day, covering everything from mental and sexual health to the Vietnam and Biafra wars. In the first edition of the magazine Richard and the Student team commissioned a series of articles by top British artists, in order to get a great understanding of the impact of their work on wider society. Here Henry Moore explains his approach to life as an artist.

Henry Moore: 'All our understanding of form comes from our own bodies'

I had twenty years or more of, almost every day of the week, looking at the human figure, trying to draw it and understand it. I believe the human form is the most complicated, the most difficult, the most subtle, and because it is ourselves, the thing we are most critical of.

So that even if one is going to do abstract art there’s no better training in observation and the understanding of principles than the human figure. All our understanding of form comes from our own bodies. Our shape, our size, from the fact we don’t walk around on all fours - all these things are fundamental to one’s outlook. And, in my opinion, the appreciation, for instance, of a girl’s leg is far more subtle than the appreciation of say, a cylinder or sphere.

My abstraction is not a literal, conscious process - I don’t give myself a problem and try to solve it. Each day is a continuation of the day before, and the work evolves. I work much more by inclination - it’s like poetry. You cannot write poetry by rules of grammar: it is an organic evolution, and neither can you sculpture. In fact you think in form without words at all. Later you may explain to other people something about it in words, but one doesn’t work by words.

I would never try to analyse art. Art is a human activity and a necessity which nothing can put an end to. People cannot live without art - those who think they can don’t understand their own natures. In a way art is like a religion in that religion is a belief that life has a meaning - and an artist would not bother to work if he did not hold the same belief. Art is not a game.

Student Magazine, first edition

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