Henry Moore’s public sculptures, which may be seen in many of the world’s major cities, have become ensconced in the urban landscape more than those of any other twentieth-century artist. They possess the rare capacity to inhabit a public space by simultaneously instilling a vital presence and projecting a timelessness, as if they were an organic outgrowth of the surrounding architecture, whatever its style. Especially during the latter period of his career, the artist’s work focused on universal humanist themes like family and maternity or abstract forms inspired by nature. Moore was nevertheless very much of his time, responding to the cataclysmic events he witnessed as a soldier in World War I, connecting his art to his strong political convictions and evincing a desire to explore life’s darker, more primal aspects.
Woman (also called Parze), inspired by prehistoric sculptures of fertility goddesses made twenty thousand years ago, was first displayed in Montreal on Sherbrooke Street, outside the Dominion Gallery, through which the Museum acquired many of the Moore sculptures in its collection. The small bronzes on display here were cast from the models that served as the first stage in the process of enlargement for his monumental works. These working models were made of plaster, a material Moore liked because it is easy to work but sets to the hardness of soft stone.