Year
1898

Henry Moore born

English sculptor Henry Moore is born in Castleford, Yorkshire, on July 30, 1898. The son of a coal miner, he overcame early criticism of his work to become one of the most acclaimed sculptors of the 20th century. His majestic, semi-abstract sculptures of the human figure are characterized by their smooth, organic shape and often include empty hollows that evoke form as meaningfully as solid mass.

The seventh of eight children, Moore grew up in the small coal-mining town of Castleford in northern England. His father was an ambitious man who taught himself advanced mathematics in order to rise from ordinary miner to the position of mining engineer. Moore decided he wanted to become a sculptor at age 11, after hearing a Sunday school story about Michelangelo. He served in France during World War I and in 1917 was injured in a gas attack. After being demobilized in 1919, he won a veteran’s grant to study at the Leeds School of Art in West Yorkshire. In 1921, he was awarded a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art in London.

At London’s libraries and museums, he studied Egyptian, Etruscan, Pre-Columbian, Oceanic, and African sculpture, and he brought the vital spirit of this artwork into his early sculpture. This effort was often ridiculed by his instructors, and in his first year at the Royal College one of his teachers remarked, “this young man has been feeding on garbage.” He was also deeply influenced by the semi-abstract paintings of Paul Cezanne, such as the Large Bathers (1900-1905), which shows monumental reclining nudes integrated into an abstract landscape. The reclining human figure would become a central theme in Moore’s sculpture.

After graduating from the Royal College in 1924, he traveled and taught art and in 1928 was given his first one-man exhibition at the Warren Gallery in London. Appreciated by his fellow avant-garde artists but lacking a wider public audience, Moore taught to support himself as he continued to develop his art. His first major mature work was Reclining Figure in Wood (1936), a highly abstract depiction of the human form. That year, Moore was included in the “Cubism and Abstract Art” show at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, which became an important patron of the English artist.

During World War II, Moore’s studio was damaged by bombs, and sculpture material was difficult to come by. He turned to drawing and as a commissioned war artist produced a series of drawings of Londoners huddled in the underground bomb shelters. The Shelter Drawings (1940) seemed to capture the spirit of the times and brought Moore his first great fame. In 1946, he was given a major retrospective by the Museum of Modern Art, and in 1948 he won the Grand Prize for Sculpture at the 24th Venice Biennale. From thereon, Moore’s reputation was firmly established, and he began to receive major public commissions for sculptures in bronze and marble.

In addition to the reclining figure, other common themes of Moore’s sculpture include the mother and child, family groups, and fallen warriors. Among his major commissions were sculptures for UNESCO headquarters in Paris (1957-58), for Lincoln Center in New York City (1963-65), for the University of Chicago (1964-66), and for the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. (1978). For the last four decades of his life, he lived unostentatiously in a farmhouse in Much Hadham, 30 miles north of London. He died in 1986.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

England wins World Cup

In the first televised World Cup soccer match, host-nation England beats Germany 4 to 2 to win the tournament final at Wembley Stadium. In overtime play, England’s Geoff Hurst scored his second of three match goals to give Britain a 3 to 2 lead. In the dying seconds of overtime ...read more

USS Indianapolis bombed

On this day in 1945, the USS Indianapolis is torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and sinks within minutes in shark-infested waters. Only 317 of the 1,196 men on board survived. However, the Indianapolis had already completed its major mission: the delivery of key components of the ...read more

Watergate affair approaches climax

Under coercion from the U.S. Supreme Court, President Richard M. Nixon releases subpoenaed White House recordings–suspected to prove his guilt in the Watergate scandal–to special prosecutor Leon Jaworski. The same day, the House Judiciary Committee voted a third article of ...read more

First legislative assembly in America

In Jamestown, Virginia, the first elected legislative assembly in the New World–the House of Burgesses–convenes in the choir of the town’s church.Earlier that year, the London Company, which had established the Jamestown settlement 12 years before, directed Virginia Governor Sir ...read more

Johnson signs Medicare into law

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs Medicare, a health insurance program for elderly Americans, into law. At the bill-signing ceremony, which took place at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, former President Harry Truman was enrolled as Medicare’s ...read more

Nixon visits South Vietnam

During his first overseas trip as president–which included stops in Guam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Pakistan, Romania, and Britain–Richard Nixon makes an unscheduled five-and-a-half hour visit to South Vietnam. On the South Vietnam stopover, Nixon met with President ...read more

Bruce Jenner wins decathlon

On July 30, 1976, American Bruce Jenner wins gold in the decathlon at the Montreal Olympics. His 8,617 points set a world record in the event.The secret to Jenner’s success was his preparation. In the 1970s, most decathletes trained with other decathletes. Bruce Jenner, however, ...read more

Chief Pocatello signs peace treaty

The Shoshone chief Pocatello signs the Treaty of Box Elder, bringing peace to the emigrant trails of southern Idaho and northern Utah.Pocatello was a Bannock Shoshone, one of the two major Shoshone tribes that dominated modern-day southern Idaho. Once a large and very powerful ...read more

Emily Bronte’s birthday

On this day in 1818, novelist Emily Bronte becomes the fifth-born of the six Bronte children, three of whom will grow up to write fiction.The Bronte family lived in the remote village of Haworth on the bleak Yorkshire moors and were largely left to their own devices after the ...read more

Blair Witch Project released

On this day in 1999, The Blair Witch Project, a low-budget, independent horror film that will become a massive cult hit, is released in U.S. theaters.Shot with shaky, handheld cameras, the documentary-style movie told the story of three student filmmakers who disappeared into the ...read more

Fighter jet collides with passenger plane

A mid-air collision between a Boeing 727 and a fighter jet in Japan kills 162 people on this day in 1971. The military plane was flying without radar. All Nippon Airways Flight 58 was traveling from Chitose Airport in Hokkaido to Tokyo, filled largely with members of a group ...read more

Man charged in murder of Megan Kanka

Jesse Timmendequas is charged with the murder of seven-year-old Megan Kanka in New Jersey. Kanka’s death inspired Megan’s Law, a statute enacted in 1994 requiring that information about convicted sex felons be available to the public. Versions of Megan’s Law have been passed in ...read more

Summit meeting in Helsinki begins

Thirty-five nations, called together by the United States and the Soviet Union, begin a summit meeting in Helsinki, Finland, to discuss some pressing international issues. The meeting temporarily revived the spirit of detente between the United States and Russia. By 1975, the ...read more