Installation view, Henry Moore and the Pre-Columbian Past. Henry Moore. The Three Rings. 1966. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Ryda and Robert H. Levi, Baltimore, BMA 1987.225. © The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS /

Henry Moore and The Pre-Columbian Past


In 1921, a young Henry Moore (British, 1898-1986) walked through the doors of the British Museum and encountered the stone carvings of ancient America for the first time. Moore was attracted to what he called the “stoniness” of the artworks, their “truth to material,” and sought to emulate this in his own work. As an art student in the early 1920s, he obsessively sketched hundreds of these works to learn how to approach three-dimensional form.

This exhibition juxtaposes work produced at the end of Moore’s career with a selection of 15 ancient American artworks like those that shaped his career as a sculptor. The centerpiece is The Three Rings (1966), a sculpture created from Red Soraya marble that has been lauded for its organic, fundamental forms and its ability to transform depending on a viewer’s perspective. The sculpture is surrounded by 15 small stone sculptures produced by Mezcala, Atlantic Watershed, and Greater Nicoya artists—juxtaposing ancient and modern and European and ancient American.

While other modernists, such as Constantin Brancusi and Alberto Giacometti, drew inspiration from ancient American art, Moore stands out for the depth, breadth, and intensity of his engagement as he continued to study those works and visit Mexico throughout his life.

Curated by Kevin Tervala, Associate Curator of African Art