Henry Moore O.M., C.H. (British, 1898-1986) Six Standing Figures 39.4 x 57 cm. (15 1/2 x 22 1/2 in.)
Lot 13* AR
Henry Moore O.M., C.H.
(British, 1898-1986)
Six Standing Figures 39.4 x 57 cm. (15 1/2 x 22 1/2 in.)
Sold for £ 146,500 (US$ 193,466) inc. premium

Lot Details
Henry Moore O.M., C.H. (British, 1898-1986)
Six Standing Figures
signed and dated 'Moore/50' (lower right)
pencil, wax crayon, coloured crayon, watercolour wash and gouache
39.4 x 57 cm. (15 1/2 x 22 1/2 in.)
This work is registered with the Henry Moore Foundation as HMF 2855


  • Provenance
    With Galerie Czwiklitzer, Cologne, 1957
    Sale; Sotheby's, London, 7 December 1983, lot 393
    With Waddington Galleries, London
    Private Collection, South Africa,
    With Joseph Wolpe, South Africa
    Acquired from the above by the mother of the present owner, 20 February 1985
    Thence by descent
    Private Collection, U.S.A.

    Cape Town, South African National Gallery, 24 March 1987 (on loan)

    Ann Garrould (ed.), Henry Moore, Volume 4, Complete Drawings 1950-76, The Henry Moore Foundation in association with Lund Humphries, Aldershot, 2003, p.63, cat.no.AG.54.21 (ill.b&w)

    Dated circa 1954 in Lund Humphries' Henry Moore, Volume 4, Complete Drawings 1950-74 (edited by Ann Garrould), Six Standing Figures, upon close scrutiny, is actually datable to 1950. This is also evident by other Moore drawings from the 1950-51 period, especially Four Standing Figures (HMF2656), which bears a remarkable similarity to the present lot.

    Standing figures are a recurring motif throughout Moore's work during the late 1940s and early 1950s; they appear frequently in both his sculptural output as well as his works on paper. Among the more iconic images is Battersea Park's monumental Darley Dale stone carving, Three Standing Figures (1947-48). However, they were first presented by Moore, albeit with less regularity, in his drawings from the 1930s, such as Ideas for Bronze Standing Figure. Even in these early pre-war depictions, the naked male and female bodies are ordered in rows, at times stacked one of top of the other, in a multitude of poses; a template he favoured for this particular fascination with the human form. As the title suggests, they often facilitated Moore's transition from two dimensions into three, a process which continued into the post-war years. Whilst this is true also of Six Standing Figures, whose two central components accurately and beautifully mirror Moore's bronze Standing Figure No.1, datable to 1952, both the scale and highly worked surface of the present lot clearly indicate the artist approached it as an exhibition piece from the outset. This feeling of exhibitionism is cleverly accentuated by the raised positioning of the figures on top of their own pedestals, giving them the impression of museum exhibits. Only the two bodies, far left share the same platform, their sense of unity heightened by the male tenderly stretching his arm around the shoulder of his female companion. Furthermore, all six individuals are neatly aligned along the same plane; none taking greater precedence over the others. They are showcased in front of a dark backdrop, using just the natural colour of the paper and white heightening crayon, with touches of orange to their limbs. This intelligent use of spotlighting imbues what is essentially a flat design with a sculptural three dimensionality.

    As the recent exhibition, Picasso and Modern British Art (15 February-15 July 2012) at Tate Britain demonstrated, Moore's response and interpretation to the works of Pablo Picasso was complex. The British avant-garde artist did not actually meet the Spaniard until 1937, at a now well documented event involving himself, Alberto Giacometti and Roland Penrose among others, with Picasso in his studio accompanied by Guernica. Yet even prior to this physical coming together, at a time when surrealism was leading the way, Moore had already absorbed the fledgling cubist imagery of Picasso from the earlier part of the twentieth century. He said as much in a BBC Radio 4 interview in 1973 following the death of Picasso. Taking Picasso's 1907 masterpiece, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, it is impossible not to recall the two central prostitutes when looking at the two centre figures displaying themselves in Moore's Six Standing Figures. In the latter, the female bodies are presented full frontal and exposed with their arms, too, raised above and behind their heads, the elbows jutting out forming right angles, neatly framing their anonymous faces. There is nothing, of course, to suggest Moore's assemblage of figures are located in a bordello, but these two Picassian forms at least lead us to question their purpose.

    During his formative years Henry Moore remained relatively silent on which artistic figureheads from the past and present influenced the direction his art would take. Although clear evidence of an early appreciation of Picasso's standing figures can be found in a very early drawing by Moore datable to 1922-4, Figure Studies (Collection of The Henry Moore Foundation). Boldly inscribed beside the pencil sketch of a standing figure (interestingly enough also with one arm raised above and behind its head) is the simple name 'Picasso'.

    As Tate's accompanying catalogue to their exhibition states:

    It was in Picasso's image-making, drawings as well as paintings, and only rarely his sculptures, that he found something his sculptural imagination could take over and develop. It is significant that his sources were so often black and white photographs in reproduction; images without colour, even where paintings were concerned.' (Christopher Green, Picasso and Modern British Art, Tate Publishing, London, 2012, pp 130-131).

    Six Standing Figures was created by Moore the same year as one of his most radical bronzes from 1950, Standing Figure. Roger Berthoud comments on this sculpture:

    'Nothing he had previously done prepares us for the ferocious, wiry energy of the Standing Figure (originally called Striding Man) of 1950. The barely recognisable human frame is split into three sections joined at shoulder, hip and knee, with shield-like triangular wedges in place of shoulders and two reptilian heads on stalk-like necks in place of one.' (Roger Berthoud, The Life of Henry Moore, Giles de la Mare Publishers, London, 2003, p.263).

    Whilst this may well be the case, especially considering the monumental scale of the sculpture which stands well over two metres tall, its basic bodily form noted by Berthoud above has been described by Moore in the figure third from the right in the present lot. The sculpture was instrumental in cementing Moore's professional friendship with William Keswick:

    'When he [Keswick] saw the Standing Figure outside the studio, he was so taken by it that he commissioned another cast after a pleasant conversation with its creator: a surprising decision, since it is a relatively 'difficult' work...Henry and Keswick became firm friends, and at Easter 1954 the director of Jardine, Matheson, of the Hudson's Bay Company, and later of the Bank of England took the miner's son up to Glenkiln [where it had been positioned on a grouse moor in Dumfries in Scotland]. Henry was thrilled to see his figure standing there like a sentinel on the bleak moor. He reported back to Keswick's old school friend from Winchester School days, Kenneth Clark [Director of The National Gallery]: "it's a most glorious place for it, very wild and surprisingly right for that particular piece"'. (op.cit, pp.263-66).

    It is easy to appreciate when looking at this important and impressive work on paper by Moore just how significant to him these pieces were in developing his sculptural forms. Six Standing Figures is steeped in creativity and variety and is evidence of an imagination which was capable of reinventing a motif that he himself had tackled decades before.
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