© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved


Henry Moore (1898 – 1986)


42.5 x 30.0 x 23.5 CM
Accession number


This was the first piece of sculpture purchased for the British Council collection. Henry Moore’s early sculptures can be divided into four main categories – mother and child, or a single female figure as here, animals, reclining figures and masks. His early, and enduring, sculptural influences came from Mexican, African, Egyptian and Mesopotamian art, three-dimensional art distinctly non-European in appearance and ideology.

All the sculpture from these diverse geographical and historical locations had a common technique: it was carved. Moore was a great admirer of Brancusi, whom he said reminded later sculptors that it was their business to strip forms of ‘surface excrescences which completely concealed shape’, an outlook more consistent with craving than modelling. In 1935, Moore wrote about a Sumerian sculpture in the British Museum which he particularly admired, a woman with her hands clasped in front of her, and drew the reader’s attention to the way the head and the hands ‘were the two equal focus points of the figure’. Certainly the head and the hands in Girl with clasped hands contain the main areas of detailing, the only other area being the breasts, where the nipples are drilled holes, depressions rather protuberances, a positive-negative switch well utilized in primitive art. Also the way Moore has painted the eyes of this figure evokes associations with primitive art. Moore had admired the critic Roger Fry’s book Vision and Design(published 1920), a collection of essays on aesthetic questions which stressed Fry’s theory of significant form. From this, Moore developed his own theory, which not unnaturally centred upon the significance of plastic relationships, forms which are imbued with some kind of spiritual essence, which gives them their liveliness and vitality. This is exactly what Moore was trying to capture in Girl with clasped hands.

A selection of paintings and sculpture. The British Council Collection>, The British Council 1984 Dimensions and Weight Height 42.5 Width 30.0 Depth 23.5 cm 20.5 Kg