Art School(ed): A useful ranking of the Ivy League’s Henry Moore sculptures


Hoards of reputable sources, from Business Insider to BetchesLoveThis, have mercilessly ranked the Ivy League universities, but these lists have only compared the same, yawn-worthy specifications (Student Life, Academics, Affordability, Campus, Celebrity Alumni, Location, Greek Life, etc). Can you spot the great oversight all of these useless rankings share? Yes, that’s right. None of these sites have evaluated the Ivy League based on the schools’ respective Henry Moore sculptures. How could they be so foolish to overlook such a critical criterion?

A brief intro: Henry Moore (1898-1986) practiced as a sculptor and artist throughout his lifetime, and his signature large-scale bronze sculptures live on in public memory. In a recent auction, an eight-foot bronze Henry Moore sculpture sold for 19.1 million pounds, placing Moore ahead of Damien Hirst as Britain’s most expensive sculptor, and securing his spot as the second most expensive 20th-century British artist after Francis Bacon. Moore is the man behind Reclining Figure No. 2 – Bridge-Prop, the large, green public sculpture installed in the center of Brown’s Main Green. Yes, this is the same object that you lounge on after a long City Politics lecture, while eating your Blue Room Ciabatta sandwich. And yes, his work, made of the same material and in the same dimensions, is displayed in renowned museums around the world where no one is allowed to touch the sculpture or stand within a 24-inch radius of it. Meanwhile, we possess the great privilege to stretch out your hamstrings and sprinkle your breadcrumbs on this exemplary work of British modern art.

Although you’ve probably never thought to rank the Ivies on the basis of who has the better Henry Moore, this is an art-historically valid question that begs to be answered. All but one Ivy has a Moore lurking somewhere on campus, so why not ask which university has better taste? Which university is the most dedicated to the arts? This is the art equivalent of the question “who wore it best?” Don’t fret: Art School(ed) devised a point system to rank the Ivy League’s acquisitions of Henry Moore sculptures:

On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the lowest, 5 being the highest) for every category, each Henry Moore in the Ivy League was evaluated based on…

  • Whether or not it is an outdoor public sculpture, which implies that it is available for all to enjoy, and that the sculpture is weather resistant.
  • Its location, proximity, and exposure to the student body.
  • Its date of acquisition (the earlier the date, the more points awarded — it pays to be ahead of the trends).
  • Who donated it to the school (parents, museum purchase, alumni, etc).
  • Its material (the most durable deserves the most points).
  • Its size (the bigger, the better).

blue henry moore copy

8. Penn


The University of Pennsylvania shames its students as the only Ivy without a Henry Moore sculpture on its immediate campus. Luckily, the nearby Philadelphia Museum of Art is picking up its slack: the museum owns quite a few small Henry Moores. Otherwise, a pretty pathetic showing from our friends in the cheesesteak capital.

7. Cornell 


Cornell closely follows UPenn, this ranking’s caboose. Legend has it that a Henry Moore object resides in Cornell’s Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. However, the Henry Moore Foundation seems to be the only organization boasting about this tiny piece of bronze that allegedly hides in the Herbert FJ’s collection. Regardless, I know I won’t be making a trip up to the Ithaca tundra to verify this information anytime soon.

6. Dartmouth


Dartmouth’s Hood Museum has a plaster Henry Moore maquette of a Reclining Figure in their collection (read: a miniature mock-up of the actual sculpture at Brown). Although Moore created the maquette in 1938, it appears that Dartmouth hopped on the Moore bandwagon a bit late: the Hood acquired the piece in 2001.

5. Columbia


The Columbia University School of Law installed Three Way Piece No. 1 on their campus in 1957. Three Way Piece may be the most resilient of the Ivy League bunch, as it has survived 46 years of urban toil, including Superstorm Sandy.

4. Yale 



This competition gets heated when Yale enters the picture. Yale’s 7-foot Draped Seated Woman sits through every season on the Yale University Art Gallery’s sculpture terrace. The Bulldogs gained major points for their foresight: the Yale University Art Gallery had the first Henry Moore in the Ivy League.

3. Harvard


Ah, Harvard. Once again, the school resists being left out of the top tier of any ranking. Harvard literally takes the bronze for this one. Props to Crimson for publicly addressing how the school conserves this piece, located near its Lamont Library: conservators have recoated the sculpture with wax, instead of lacquer, in order to prevent visible scratches. Harvard also considered surrounding the sculpture with a bit of shrubbery, “not to confront the athletic with a physical barrier, but to suggest that the reclining figure is someone special, as opposed to a jungle gym.”

2. Princeton



Princeton was a serious contender for the #1 spot in this Henry Moore hierarchy. The sculpture resides on campus thanks to a generous gift of funds from an anonymous donor in the 1960s, as a memorial to a Princeton alumnus killed in World War II. Henry Moore’s Oval With Points is only one of 22 sculptures on campus, funded by this gift. (“Generous” is a severe understatement.) Although Oval With Points is a stunning piece, this sculpture may not be the best fit for one of the most cut-throat college campuses in the USA. These two points in everlasting tension must function as a constant reminder of the classic Princetonian anxieties, like grade deflation. (At least Princeton maintains a consistent aesthetic: its seal is the pointiest of them all.)

1. Brown


Nothing says “take it easy!”, “take it S/NC!”, “open curriculum!”, “screw heteronormativity!”, “In Deo Speramus!”, or “Ra Ra Brunonia!” like an 11-foot, gender neutral reclining figure in the epicenter of campus. This sculpture embodies all of the best Brunonian characteristics.

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  1. B. Ho

    And look where we display ours! Not on the second floor of a museum, not next to non-discript administrative buildings, but on the MAIN GREEN, for everyone to see & enjoy! The other Ivies just don’t get it….

  2. Location, Location, Location

    Princeton’s sculpture is located in one of the highest traffic pedestrian thoroughfares on campus. In the photograph, you can see iconic Blair Arch in the background. To the viewer’s back is Nassau Hall. Probably a fifth of the student body would walk past this sculpture several times a day on the way from their dorm to classes. “Oval With Points” has a supporting role in the recent Tina Fey movie, “Admission.” It should get a “5” for “Public Sculpture” and arguably for “Location and Proximity” as well.

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