Henry Moore was born in 1898 in a small coal mining town in Yorkshire, his father a miner. In spite of these humble beginnings, Moore decided to be an artist, and pursued his art education in Leeds and in London. At age 18, Moore enlisted, serving in the First World War, then continuing his studies in London when he returned from the war.
In the 1920's and 1930's, Moore's work seemed firmly rooted in the figurative traditions of Western classicism, Africa and Pre-Columbian America, which he saw at the British Museum. He was especially interested in the ancient art of the Americans, for his famous reclining nudes from the late 1920's are based on figures from the Toltec civilization. It is in these sculptures that Moore opened up the mass, making a space within the figure. With family groups and figures studies, Moore established the basic themes that would inspire him for the rest of his life.
Throughout the 1930's, Moore participated in Surrealist activities. He signed the Surrealist Manifesto and was part of the organizing committee for "The First International Surrealist Exhibition," held in London in 1936.
By the 1940's, Moore's international reputation grew, and his work was in great demand, especially in the United States. During World War II, Moore produced a series of drawings, the so-called 'Shelter Drawings,' that depict Londoners seeking refuge in the subways during the long nights of bombing. Working predominantly in cast bronze, his large reclining figures became familiar throughout Europe and the United States. Public recognition continued to grow throughout the rest of his life, as he received countless commissions around the world, received many honors, and had numerous exhibitions.