Henry Moore: Elephant Skull

Alsdorf Gallery

Elephant SkullHenry Moore, etching from the Elephant Skull portfolio, 1969-1970. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Purchase funds provided in part by Katherine Olson, 2008.19.1–30. Reproduced by permission of The Henry Moore Foundation.

In the 1960s British sculptor Henry Moore became intrigued by the skull of an African elephant kept in the London garden of his friends Sir Julian and Lady Juliette Huxley. The Huxleys eventually gave the skull to Moore, who examined the object’s internal and external spaces in a series of etchings printed as an album in 1970.

At the time of publishing Moore called the works “a mixture of observation and imagination,” noting that while studying and drawing the skull up close he “. . . could begin to see in it great deserts and rocky landscapes, big caves in the sides of hills, great pieces of architecture, columns, and dungeons.”

Henry Moore: Elephant Skull exhibited all 28 prints Moore produced for the portfolio, along with its rare original vellum cover. Unique in its relentless exploration of a single subject, the album is a recent acquisition by the Block. The exhibition also included the skull of an elephant on loan from Chicago’s Field Museum.