Henry Moore 1898 - 1986

Provenance

Henri et Hélène Hoppenot, Paris
Private Collection, Paris 

Exhibitions

Wakefield, City Art Gallery, Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings 1923 - 1948, 2 April- 21 May 1949, cat no.42, touring exhibition, another cast

York, City Art Gallery, Henry Roland Collection, March 1950, touring exhibition, another cast

Bristol, City Art Gallery, Contemporary British Painting, 11 May - 8 June 1951, (A Festival of Britain Exhibition by arrangement with the Fine Arts Council of Great Britain), another cast

Southampton, City Art Gallery, Modern Painting and Sculpture of the British and Continental Schools from the Collection of Dr H. M. Roland, 29 November- 17 December, 1953, touring exhibition, another cast

Cardiff,National Museum of Wales, British Art and the Modern Movement 1930-1940, 13 October- 25 November 1962, cat no.43, another cast

Florence, Forte di Belvedere, Moore e Firenze, 1974, p.34, cast unknown

West Surrey, College of Art & Design, Works from the Roland Collection, 24 November- 10 December 1975, p50, another cast

London, Camden Arts Centre, The Roland Collection, 15 September- 10 October 1976, cat no80, another cast

Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries, Henry Moore: sculptures et dessins, 6 May-29 August 1977, cat no.28, cast unknown

London, Courtauld Institute Galleries, Works from the Roland Collection, March- May 1979, Arts Council Exhibition, cat no.64, touring exhibition, another cast

Literature

Barrie Sturt-Penrose, The Art Scene, Paul Hamlyn, London 1969, p35, illus b/w, cast not specified

David Sylvester, ed., Henry Moore, Complete Sculpture 1921-48, Volume 1, Lund Humphries, London, 1988, LH 184, p11, not illus

Description

During the 1930s, Henry Moore experimented widely and the decade culminated in an exceptional group of sculptures, produced at Moore’s Kent studio between 1938 and 1939, which offered a radical reinterpretation of the reclining nude.

This work is a sketch model for the large stone carving Recumbent Figure, 1938 (Tate Gallery, London). The original was commissioned by the architect Serge Chermayeff for the terrace of his home overlooking the South Downs. The choice of horizontal reclining figure echoed Chermayeff’s long, low-lying building and this monumental female form placed between house and landscape united one with another. As Moore explained, ‘My figure looked out across a great sweep of the Downs, and her gaze gathered in the horizon…I think it introduced a harmonising element; it became a mediator between modern home and ageless land.’ 2

Moore often worked in British stone and wood, carving outdoors so that he might respond directly to the landscape. In this work, the undulating forms of the body echo the rolling hills of the English landscape, establishing a direct relationship between the idea of the feminine and nature. This notion is enhanced when we consider Moore’s use of the hole, carving out the areas under the breasts and between the legs, Moore opens up areas of femininity to reveal the landscape behind them. The introduction of the hole was a revelation for the artist, who stated,

‘The hole connects one side to the other, making it immediately more three-dimensional. A hole can itself have as much shape-meaning as a solid mass. Sculpture in air is possible, where the stone contains only the hole, which is the intended and considered form. The mystery of the hole - the mysterious fascination of caves in hillsides and cliffs.’ 3

Moore’s fragmentation of the human form can also be traced to his intensive engagement with Surrealism during the early 1930s. The Surrealist emphasis on the unconscious offered new formal possibilities for the human body which were, ‘…underpinned by a new emphasis on irrationality, intuition and emotion…’ during the 1930s.
Before carving the large, stone version of Recumbent Figure Moore used a clay maquette – a small scale version of the sculpture – as a guide. Art historian Alan Wilkinson has noted that Recumbent Figure ‘appear[s] to have been the first large carving to be preceded by a small maquette’, a practice that would become common in Moore’s work. Maquettes are usually made in order to test out an idea or composition in three-dimensional form, and can help an artist decide what may or may not be possible – structurally and aesthetically – on a larger scale. They could also be used as a guide for scaling up three-dimensional ideas. Although Moore had advocated the method of ‘direct carving’ – which involves carving the stone in response to its natural, physical properties rather than shaping it according to a pre-determined plan – he may have felt it necessary, and practical, to create a preliminary maquette for Recumbent Figure to ensure that the stone, and his physical efforts, would not be wasted on such a large sculpture. The maquette also served as a set of instructions for Meadows who was also responsible for carving the stone.

The original clay maquette for Recumbent Figure (now lost) was cast in an edition of twelve, of which three were made in lead and nine in bronze. According to Meadows an initial lead cast was made in a field at Burcroft, but because it was not a successful cast, the bronze editions were made (probably at a foundry) some time during the Second World War.15 It is unclear whether all three of the lead versions were made at Burcroft or not. Interestingly, there are some differences between the cast maquettes and the final stone sculpture; in the bronze maquette the arch underneath the right leg is much more pronounced and the cavity between the two legs appears more like a v-shape than a rounded u-shape. These differences may be due to the integral differences between the materials. As Meadows recalled: ‘The stone was very unpredictable, at any point an iron vein or fossil might cause a whole area to crack off; this never compromised the form though’. 4

Note: This work was authenticated by the Henry Moore Foundation on 10 October 2017, although it has not been possible to establish which of the two bronze editions this work is from.

1 The artist quoted in a talk recorded by the artist for the British Council, 1955
2 ‘The Sculptor Speaks’, The Listener, 18 August 1937; reprinted op. cit., pXXXIV
3 Chris Stephens ‘Anything but Gentle’ Henry Moore exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London, 2010, p16
4 Alan Wilkinson, The Drawings of Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1977, p.95