Henry Moore O.M., C.H. (British, 1898-1986)Mother and Child - Arch  55.9 cm. (22 in.) high; 55.2 cm.
Lot 89*
Henry Moore O.M., C.H. (British, 1898-1986)Mother and Child - Arch 55.9 cm. (22 in.) high; 55.2 cm. (21 3/4 in.) wide; 33 cm. (13 in.) deep (all including base)
Sold for £264,000 (US$ 413,107) inc. premium

Lot Details
Henry Moore O.M., C.H. (British, 1898-1986)
Mother and Child - Arch
signed and numbered twice 'Moore 6/6' (on the reverse and on the base)
bronze with a brown and green patina
55.9 cm. (22 in.) high; 55.2 cm. (21 3/4 in.) wide; 33 cm. (13 in.) deep (all including base)
Conceived in 1959

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    with Joseph Wolpe Gallery, South Africa, 1974
    Private Collection, South Africa
    Private Collection, U.S.A.

    Literature:
    Alan Bowness (Ed.), Henry Moore, Volume 3, Sculpture 1955-1964, Lund Humphries, London, 1986, cat.no.85, (ill.b&w)

    Only the Reclining Figure enjoyed as much attention from Moore as the Mother and Child. However, as the artist himself commented, ‘‘Perhaps of the two the ‘Mother and Child’ has been the more fundamental obsession.’’(Henry Moore and Dr Alan Wilkinson Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, p.267)

    The subject of the Mother and Child preoccupied Moore throughout his entire career. It was first referred to in the 1920s, manifesting itself in superbly executed stone carvings. Perhaps the most well known of these is Mother and Child made from Hornton stone, dating from 1924 (City Art Gallery, Manchester), where the young infant clings to the head of his mother who is providing additional support clasping her child’s leg. This sculpture is approximately the same size as the present work, whereas others from this early period are far more delicately handled on a much smaller scale. An exquisite example made in verde di Prato was sold in these rooms in November 2005 (£1,069,600). As Moore’s style matured in the 1930s his Mother and Child sculptures became increasingly abstract. By the end of the decade, in keeping with a more general move towards abstraction in British Art, the motif was barely recognisable and began to incorporate string. After the Second World War the subject retained elements of abstraction and figuration in varying degrees.

    The genesis of Mother and Child – Arch can be found in an interesting black and white photo depicting three flints from the artist’s studio (Figure 1). It is the flint on the left which is of particular interest and which bears a remarkable similarity in form and structure to the present lot. As Moore comments, ‘ Although it is the human figure which interests me most deeply, I have always paid close attention to natural forms, such as bones, shells, and pebbles etc. Sometimes for several years running I have been to the same part of the sea-shore – but each year a new shape of pebble has caught my eye, which the year before, though it was there in hundreds, I never saw. Out of the millions of pebbles passed in walking along the shore, I choose out to see with excitement only those which fit in with my existing form-interest at the time. A different thing happens if I sit down and examine a handful one by one. I may then extend my form experience more, by giving my mind time to become conditioned to a new shape. (see Henry Moore on Sculpture,Philip James (Ed.), Macdonald & Co. Ltd., 1966)

    Moore saw in the left-hand flint the larger, higher shape bearing down on the smaller one beneath, just as a mother would shelter her child, protecting it in time of danger. The artist only changes and adds to the natural form of the flint where absolutely necessary and to help identify the motif more clearly. The most obvious addition is the inclusion of asymmetrical breasts on the left-hand side of the sculpture. They are purposefully not aligned, as Moore remained attached to asymmetry throughout his oeuvre, believing that nothing in nature is perfectly symmetrical and that this should be mirrored in art. The mass of bronze depicting the shoulder of the Mother has been greatly exaggerated when compared to the natural flint. It is reminiscent of his treatment of the left shoulder of one of his most famous sculptures: Mother and Child executed in 1932 from Green Hornton Stone (Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, U.K.). Its purpose is to add not only a fully three-dimensional form to the sculpture, which was always at the forefront of the artist’s aims, but also a monumentality to the piece which, is further accentuated by the solid and substantial integral base the figures rest on.

    Already present on the natural piece of flint is a near-perfect circle on the right-hand side. This has been cleverly integrated into the finished bronze to represent an eye of the child – the only humanly recognisable feature of the infant. Moore develops this natural phenomenon and transfers it on to the face of the Mother as well as incising a groove to depict the basic shape of a nose. The faces and breasts of Mother and Child – Arch have been slightly polished to smooth the surfaces which, creates a variety of texture, just as would be found on a natural piece of flint which has been worn by the elements over thousands of years.

    The arch of the present work is another organic feature of the sculpture and one, which ties the bronze to nature’s roots. This form can be found in caves in hillsides and cliffs on the coast and provides the sculpture with an underlying strength and elegance. Moore commented, ‘A piece of stone can have a hole through it and not be weakened – if the hole is of studied size, shape and direction. On the principle of the arch, it can remain just as strong’ (Op. Cit., p.66). In this instance the arch, not a hole, is used to connect one side of the sculpture to the other, thus creating a more three-dimensional image. When discussing holes in sculpture the artist could equally be referring to arches, ‘Sculpture in air is possible, where the stone contains only the hole, which is the intended and considered form.’ (Loc. Cit., p.66).

    Of the six casts made of Mother and Child Arch – Arch, one is in a public collection in the Museum and Art Gallery, Bolton, U.K.

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