Key Ideas about this Work of Art
- This abstract bronze sculpture was inspired by a bird bone and a Greek sculpture of a winged goddess. The forms of wings are represented in the curves and the edges on the sides of the sculpture.
- Henry Spencer Moore is best known for his abstract bronze sculptures. He is considered to be one of the most important British artists and sculptors of the 20th century.
- Moore often used found objects (such as bones), and then smeared and pinched clay directly onto the object to create a model or figure for his sculptures. He created a maquette (a small model of a sculpture) before he created a larger version and cast it in bronze.
- Moore lived and worked during a period of big changes in art. In his early days as an artist, impressionism was a popular style. Eventually expressionism replaced impressionism. Expressionist art often depicts flat and distorted forms that express the artist’s personal view. This artistic movement introduced abstraction, a style of art that does not represent objects and forms realistically.
Artist Henry Spencer Moore’s sculpture titled Large Standing Figure: Knife Edge, arrived at the Museum in 1997. He created this sculpture in 1961, a time in Moore’s career when he was experimenting with the idea of modeling his sculptures by smearing and pinching clay on top of bone.
The form of Knife Edge, for example, took shape from clay that Moore applied to the top of a bird’s breastbone. The winged figure that resulted from this approach references both a bird and a well-known work of ancient art, Winged Victory of Samothrace, in the Louvre in Paris. The sculpture retains a suggestion of a wingspread and, with the wings’ diagonal orientation, a sensation of rising skyward.
When discussing Moore’s sculpture, former North Carolina Museum of Art curator John Coffey said, quote: “The fragility of existence is communicated just by the form. The sense of mortality in the image is very strong.”
To position Knife Edge into place here at the Museum, a crane was used to lift the bronze sculpture through the surrounding elm trees. Museum team members had to pull limbs away to give the sculpture clearance and guide it to the ground.
Resources for Teachers
- Read an article about Moore’s artistic process.
- View a timeline of the artist’s life and work.
- Watch a video about an exhibition of his work.
Resources for Students