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Lot 24AR
Henry Moore O.M., C.H.
(British, 1898-1986)
Reclining Figure 44.4 cm. (17 1/2 in.) long (excluding the base)

Sold for £ 1,818,500 (US$ 2,261,211) inc. premium
Henry Moore O.M., C.H. (British, 1898-1986)
Reclining Figure
plaster on a wooden base
44.4 cm. (17 1/2 in.) long (excluding the base)
Conceived in 1945


  • Provenance
    C.S. Reddihough (by 1954)

    Bradford, Cartwright Memorial Hall, Golden Jubilee Exhibition; Fifty Years of British Art, 19 March-8 June 1954,

    Henry Moore's position as one of the giants of twentieth century British art is unquestionable. He has become an internationally renowned sculptor (predominantly of figurative subjects) in stone, wood and bronze as well as a distinguished draughtsman and printmaker. Moore is credited with having been part of some of the most significant artistic movements of the century which included such forward thinking groups as the 7 & 5 Society, Unit One and International Surrealist Exhibitions in London (1936) and Paris (1938). Moore's prominent role within Kenneth Clark's War Artists Advisory Committee (WAAC) from 1939 led to, amongst other subjects, his famous Shelter Sketch-Books whose drawings of Londoners taking refuge in the underground provided the stimulus for models such as Reclining Figure and imbued him within the British psyche.

    During his long and distinguished career, the 'reclining figure' along with the 'mother and child' theme were the two subjects that obsessed Henry Moore more than any other. Recent information from the Henry Moore Foundation indicates there are 270 examples of the reclining figure and 140 of the mother of child, perhaps confirming the former as the most significant; certainly the most fundamental. By 1968, Moore admitted this was the case: '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' (John Hedgecoe, Henry Moore, London, Thomas Nelson, 1968, p.151).

    The origins of that first reclining figure (male and now destroyed) can be traced back to the Toltec-Mayan idol Chacmool. Impressed by a life-sized limestone carving from the eleventh or twelfth century found in Chichen Itza in Mexico, Moore came across a plaster cast of Chacmool on a visit to the Trocadero Museum in Paris in 1925. The curious reclining posture of the figure on its back, with knees drawn up and head twisted to the right fascinated Moore and it became 'undoubtedly the one sculpture which most influenced my early work' (Henry Moore Writings and Conversations, ed. Alan Wilkinson, London, Lund Humphries, 2002, p.98).

    The present work was conceived at the end of the War in 1945 and cast in a bronze edition of seven. This was a particularly significant time as the end of conflict meant a renewed availability of metals and Moore was able to break free from the constraints of two dimensions and work more regularly in three. Reclining Figure is therefore one of the first sculptural examples of what the artist had absorbed through his graphic observations of the public sheltering from the blitz in the London underground. The undulating profile of the sculpture draws on both the example of a body sheltering on the platform floor and the artist's early preoccupations with the naturalistic rendering of bones, rocks and mountainous landscape. Reclining Figure is particularly successful in its hollowed form as Moore uses piercings for breasts and under the arms which then follow an organic line to a deep bowl like end, read as both abstract and human at the same time.

    Moore would often work on small models made from either clay or plaster to develop the theme of his sculpture and then work these into larger examples to be prepared for casting. Few of these original models exist from the artist's early days as they were often destroyed to prevent unauthorised casts being produced. The present plaster, seemingly in excellent original condition and fully worked, is a rare insight into Moore's working method and something that is seldom available on the open market. Indeed, the artist's own words ring true when considering Reclining Figure; 'an idea you've had and that you've made in the original material or plaster can suit it better than what the final bronze may do' (The Artist in Henry J Seldis, Henry Moore in America, London and New York, 1973, pp.222-4). Moore was eventually convinced (whilst physically destroying plasters) by the Victoria and Albert Museum to retain his originals and subsequently gifted several models to institutions such as the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1973 who now host a dedicated gallery of these works. Some works were gifted to trusted friends (Derek Hill for example) and as a dedicated collector, patron of modern British art and fellow Yorkshire man, it is entirely appropriate that Cyril Reddihough has been the guardian of Reclining Figure.
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