- Object: 121 x 375 x 130 mm
- Presented by the artist 1978
Henry Moore’s Bird 1959 does not depict a particular species of bird but displays certain features that make it recognisable as such. These include a long bill with a smooth and relatively flat upper surface, a short rounded body, and a long feathered tail. The bill and the tail project beyond the front and rear edges of the rectangular Hoptonwood limestone base on which the sculpture sits. From the side the bird’s body can be seen to extend on a diagonal axis, with the bill tilting upwards, the body curving downwards, and the tail projecting horizontally backwards. Consequently the sculpture appears carefully weighted, with the bill and tail counterbalancing each other.
The bill comprises a wide upper mandible with a flat upper surface and a thinner lower mandible containing a large hole at its far end. This hole appears to delineate the shape of a pelican’s dip netting bill – a large fold of skin connected to a pelican’s lower mandible that acts rather like a net (fig.1). On the right side of the bird the jawline curves smoothly into the wing, underneath which deep recesses evoke the shapes of a skeletal structure. The peaked curve connecting the upper mandible and the wing complicates any sense of anatomical legibility in that the body appears to occupy the position of a head. Similarly, from certain angles the crests of the wings may also be understood to represent eyes. Both wings extend backwards and form a long tail with scalloped edges suggestive of feathers (fig.2). Moore paid particular attention to the surfaces of the wings and tail, marking them with a series of cross-hatched lines to evoke a feathery texture.
From plaster to bronze
Origins and development
The Henry Moore Gift
James Copper, in conversation with the author, July 2013.
Henry Moore sales log book, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
Henry Moore cited in John Hedgecoe (ed.), Henry Moore, London 1968, p.405.
W.J. Strachan, Henry Moore: Animals, London 1983, p.33.
Henry Moore cited in ibid., p.9.
Herbert Read, Henry Moore: Sculptor, London 1934, p.13.
Henry Moore, ‘Statement for Unit One’, in Herbert Read (ed.), Unit One: The Modern Movement in English Architecture, Painting and Sculpture, London 1934, pp.29–30, reprinted in Alan Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershot 2002, p.192.
Strachan 1983, p.35.
Henry Moore cited in ibid., p.34.
See ‘Note on the Henry Moore Gift’, 1978, Tate Public Records TG 4/6/10/4.
These figures are based on those listed in a memo in the records for the exhibition. See Tate Public Records TG 92/344/2.
Norman Reid, letter to Mary Danowski, 31 August 1978, Tate Public Records TG 4/6/10/4.