Henry Moore’s Standing Figure

Henry Moore's Standing figure, woman in skirt, cast made from oyster shell
Henry Moore's Standing figure, woman in skirt (upright)

Henry Moore
Standing Figure: Shell skirt

Henry Moore (1898–1986) was an English artist known for his sculptures, which hover between the abstract and the figural. Departing from the Victorianist style of sculptures in which he had been trained after his service in the British army during World War I, Moore turned in his work toward the innovations of the primitivists, a group of artists including Paul Gauguin and Pablo Picasso, who were aesthetically influenced by the objects, artworks, and buildings made by the Indigenous peoples of South America and Africa. Moore also took inspiration from the natural objects he collected—driftwood, rocks, shells—and which account for the shell-like quality of “Standing Figure,” shown above. “Standing Figure'' exemplifies Moore’s artistic play between the abstract and the figural by suggesting a woman’s body—a frequent trope in his work—through the curve, shape, and disposition of the object rather than its realistic depiction.

Written by Daniel Pfeiffer

The Hall of Mollusks and Mankind

In December 1975 the American Museum of Natural History opened the Hall of Mollusks and Mankind, presenting exhibits on the significant role of mollusks in human culture and economy. Knowing that the artist Henry Moore drew on mollusk shapes in his work, the Museum wrote to Moore who offered to donate this small—just over seven inches tall—sculpture to the Museum for inclusion in this exhibition. The cast plaster figure, with a skirt modeled on an oyster shell (also donated to the Museum), was presented as the centerpiece of the small permanent hall in a freestanding, cylindrical exhibition case.

Written by AMNH staff

Hall of Mollusks exhibition

Entrance to Mollusks and Mankind, November 1975. Photo by James Coxe.

Visitors, Hall of Mollusks and Mankind

Visitors, Hall of Mollusks and Mankind, 1976. Henry Moore figure visible in cylindrical case in center.

Viewing exhibit

Viewing exhibit, publicity photograph for Shell Hall, November 1975. Photo by James Coxe.

Explore. Instigate. Build new knowledge.