- Henry Moore OM, CH 1898–1986
- Object: 150 x 126 x 76 mm
- Lent from a private collection 1994
On long term loan
Family Group is one of at least fourteen small models made by Henry Moore in the mid-1940s, each of which presents a family group in different poses and configurations. This sculpture presents a mother, father and two children (fig.1). The two adults each sit on a stool, which are positioned at an angle to each other. The mother sits on the father’s left, with her knees positioned between those of the father, who sits with his legs apart. The father’s left hand rests on the mother’s right shoulder. This sculpture was modelled in clay, which was then fired to harden it and fix the design.
A child stands on the father’s right thigh and wraps its arms around his neck (fig.2). Another smaller, probably younger child sits in the mother’s lap, with its back to her chest. Neither child has been presented with a high degree of detail and their genders cannot be identified. The adult figures both appear to be wearing long robes or tunics that extend down to their ankles. The mother also has a cloak draped around her shoulders and back. Moore has indicated facial features on each of the four figures, albeit through the use of abbreviated lines for lips and pin-sized round depressions for eyes. While the mother looks towards the father, he and the child he is holding look outwards away from the family.
The origins of this sculpture lie in the mid-1930s when the German architect Walter Gropius proposed to Moore that he make a large-scale sculpture for a school in Impington, near Cambridge, which was designed by Gropius and Maxwell Fry in 1935–6 and opened in 1939. The college was designed to be a flexible space that catered for all the family, acting as the focal point for the entire community.1 Moore later recalled discussing the commission with Henry Morris, Chief Education Officer for Cambridgeshire County Council:
See Harry Rée, Educator Extraordinary: The Life and Achievement of Henry Morris, London 1973, pp.70–2.
Henry Moore cited in Farewell Night, Welcome Day, television programme, broadcast BBC, 4 January 1963, reprinted in Alan Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershot 2002, p.89.
Henry Moore, letter to Dorothy Miller, 31 January 1951, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.273.
Henry Moore in ‘Henry Moore Talking to David Sylvester’, 7 June 1963, transcript of Third Programme, broadcast BBC Radio, 14 July 1963, Tate Archive TGA 200816, p.13. (An edited version of this interview was published in the Listener, 29 August 1963, pp.305–7.)
See David Sylvester (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 1: Complete Sculpture 1921–48, 1957, 5th edn, London 1988, pp.14–15.