Reclining Figure, 1945
Bronze: 3.5(h) x 57.8(w) in / 8.9(h) x 146.7(w) cm
Signed on the base: Moore
HENRY MOORE OM CH
Castleford 1898 - 1986 Much Hadham
Reclining Figure, 1945
Signed on the base: Moore
Bronze: 5 ½ in / 14 cm length
Conceived in terracotta in 1945 and cast in an unnumbered edition of 7+1
Christie’s New York, 16th May 1990, lot 452
Private collection, USA
Private collection, Canada
Osbourne Samuel, London
Private collection, UK, acquired from the above
David Sylvester (ed.), Henry Moore Complete Sculpture 1921–1948, Vol. I, Lund Humphries, London, 1990, p.15, no.243
‘From the very beginning the reclining figure has been my main theme. The first one I made was around 1924, and probably more than half of my sculptures since then have been reclining figures.’
Reclining Figure 1945 is the sketch-model for Memorial Figure 1945-46, Hornton stone (LH 262), sited at Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon. Another cast is in the collection of Museum Ludwig, Cologne.
When Moore was commissioned by Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst to carve a memorial to his friend Christopher Martin, the Artistic Director at Dartington Hall, the reclining figure with its stability and sense of repose suggested itself as the most appropriate arrangement, Moore stating that, ‘It fits in with my belief that sculpture should be permanent, should last for eternity.’ Moore and Martin had met during the War (perhaps through Sir Kenneth Clark) when Moore became a member of the Visual Arts Group associated with the Arts Enquiry, a study of how the arts were organised in England and Wales which Martin initiated and ran. This bronze is one of several maquettes made in preparation for the almost life-sized Memorial Figure carved in Horton stone, although it differs from the finished work in the arrangement of dress and the position of the feet. The naturalistic style of this piece and the final sculpture recalls the dignified poise of the Northampton Madonna and Child, 1943-4.
Moore discovered the perfect setting for the reclining figure in the grounds of Dartington Hall and held it in mind as he created the maquettes to produce a work of sculpture in absolute harmony with the landscape loved by Martin: ‘The figure is a memorial to a friend who loved the quiet mellowness of this Devonshire landscape. It is situated at the top of a rise, and when one stands near it and takes in the shape of it in relation to the vista one becomes aware that the raised knee repeats or echoes the gentle roll of the landscape. I wanted it to convey a sense of permanent tranquillity, a sense of being from which the stir and fret of human ways had been withdrawn, and all the time I was working on it I was very much aware that I was making a memorial to go into an English scene that is itself a memorial to many generations of men who have engaged in a subtle collaboration with the land.’
The drapery covering the recumbent woman also suggests the swelling forms of the Devonshire landscape, its deep folds likened by Moore, ‘with the form of mountains, which are the crinkled skin of the earth. Moore’s search for a figurative representation of ‘quiet stillness’ in harmony with its landscape setting, parallels Hepworth’s intent to achieve a work of serenity in the unity of her figures in the landscape. Richard Cork suggests that the sculpture may also represent a memorial to Moore’s mother, who died the year before he started work on the commission.
HENRY MOORE OM, CH
Castleford, Yorkshire 1898 - 1986 Much Hadham, Herts
The seventh child of Raymond Spencer and Mary Moore, Henry was born in Castleford, Yorkshire in 1898. His paternal great-grandfather was of Irish origin, but his father and grandfather were born in Yorkshire where, for two or three generations, they worked the land or went down the mines. At the age of twelve Moore obtained a grant to study at the Grammar School in Castleford where he was inspired by his art teacher to pursue a career in the arts. In 1916 he began to teach, but by February 1917 he had joined the army and left to fight in
After being wounded in action in November 1917 at the battle of Cambrai, Moore was excused from active service. He returned to England, where he became a physical education instructor in the army. At the end of the war, Moore received a veteran’s grant to study at Leeds School of Art and in 1921 he joined a course at the Royal College of Art in London. A further grant enabled him to travel extensively from 1925, visiting Rome, Florence, Venice, Ravenna and Paris, where he met Picasso, Giacometti, Ernst, Eluard and Breton among others.
On returning from his travels Moore was appointed Professor of Sculpture at the Royal College of Art where he worked two days a week until 1931, as well as teaching at the Chelsea School of Art until 1939. He was appointed an Official War Artist during the Second World War from 1940–1942 for which he made a series of drawings of people sheltering in the London Underground, as well as studies of miners at the coal face. In these pictures he frequently used
watercolour over wax crayon.
After the war Moore enjoyed a great deal of success, with his works receiving critical acclaim all around the world. He executed many major commissions for museums, public institutions, private collectors and municipal buildings and as a result he became one of the most famous British artists of the twentieth century.
At the beginning of the 1970s Moore created a foundation, the aim of which was to promote public awareness of sculpture and to protect his own work for the future. Located in his home village of Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, the foundation houses a library, archives and a collection of drawings, prints, maquettes and sculptures by the artist. Heavily influenced by the work of Michelangelo, Moore created monumental works in marble, stone and bronze and was enthralled by the theme of the family, and in particular the mother and child. His unique oeuvre draws inspiration from prehistoric, archaic, Egyptian, African, Mexican and Roman sculpture.
Throughout his career he was noted for his output of graphic art – drawings, watercolours, etchings and lithographs which were not necessarily related to individual sculptures.
 The artist cited in J. Hedgecoe and H. Moore, Henry Spencer Moore, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1968, p.151.
 The artist cited in P. James, Henry Moore on Sculpture, MacDonald, London, 1966, p.264.
 The artist cited in P. James, ibid., 1966, p.101.
 Cited in P. James, ibid., p.231.
 See Henry Moore, exh cat, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1988, p.19.