Henry Moore OM, CH

Family Group

1949, cast 1950–1

On display at Tate Britain

Henry Moore OM, CH 1898–1986
Object: 1540 x 1180 x 700 mm, 475 kg
Purchased 1950

Display caption

Family Group is derived from one of a number of maquettes that Moore made for a sculpture for Impington Village College in Cambridgeshire. In the end none of them was accepted. Several years later, however, he was approached to make a sculpture for the Barclay Secondary School in Stevenage and returned to the theme. The bronze was cast in an edition of four. One is still at the Barclay Secondary School. The others were acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Nelson D Rockefeller, and Tate.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry


This bronze sculpture depicts an almost life-size man and woman seated on a low bench, holding a child between them. The woman sits to the right of the man and holds the child over her lap with both her arms. The man’s left arm support’s the child’s legs while his right hand rests on the woman’s left shoulder. The title, Family Group, indicates that the man and the woman are the parents of the small child.

The poses of the two adults seem to mirror each other, especially in the way that the woman’s right arm and the man’s left arm both curve outwards in a similar arc to hold the child between them (fig.1). The woman has small domed breasts and wears an ankle length skirt that drapes between her knees and stretches across the gap between her shins. Her legs are positioned straight in front of her, while the man’s thin, tubular legs are positioned at a slight angle, orientated towards the woman. Unlike the woman, the man does not appear to be wearing any clothing on his lower body.
When viewed from the side it becomes apparent that the sculpture is not very deep (fig.2). The figures’ knees are drawn up so that their bodies appear to be folding inwards, and their torsos are unnaturally thin. In contrast, the child is chubby and rounded. Positioned in the middle of the sculpture and held aloft by its parents, the child is the natural focal point. Discussing the arrangement of the figures, Moore identified how ‘the arms of the mother and the father [intertwine] with the child forming a knot between them, tying the three into a family unity’.1

Origins of Family Group

From plaster to bronze

Tate and Family Group

Reception and interpretation

Alice Correia
March 2014


Henry Moore cited in John Hedgecoe (ed.), Henry Moore, London 1968, p.177.
Ibid., p.163.
See Alan G. Wilkinson, Henry Moore Remembered: The Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Toronto 1987, p.83.
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.)
Ibid., p.16.
See David Sylvester (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 1: Complete Sculpture 1921–48, 1957, 5th edn, London 1988, pp.14–15.
Henry Moore, letter to Martin Butlin, 22 January 1963, Tate Artist Catalogue File, Henry Moore, A23941.
Henry Moore, letter to Dorothy Miller, 31 January 1951, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.273.
Ibid., pp.273–4.
Roger Berthoud, The Life of Henry Moore, 1987, revised edn, London 2003, p.259.
Ibid., pp.261–2.
Although this plaster working model has been dated to 1945, the revised shape of the father’s head – along with its fabrication in plaster, a material Moore had rarely used prior to the Barclay School commission – suggests that it was actually made in preparation for the full-size sculpture between 1947 and 1948.
Henry Moore, letter to Dorothy Miller, 31 January 1951, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.274.
In September 1994 Meadows recalled that in order to enlarge the plaster to scale he built a measuring frame over the version to be enlarged and another over the model. These frames both had rulers marking lengths in inches so that Meadows could read off a measurement from the smaller ruler and apply it directly to the enlargement. Each measurement referred to a specific point on the surface of the model, which could then be recreated to the correct scale. Using frames and rulers avoided having to make complicated calculations, and ‘was really a very direct thing and could be done in a matter of seconds’. See ‘Interviews with Bernard Meadows’, 22 September 1994, p.24, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
David Mitchinson (ed.), Hoglands: The Home of Henry and Irina Moore, London 2007, p.68.
‘Interviews with Bernard Meadows’, p.45. Numerous photographs at the Henry Moore Foundation show a plaster of Family Group in various stages of development in Moore’s studio, but it is unclear whether these photographs show the original or second plaster.
Henry Moore, letter to Dorothy Miller, 31 January 1951, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.274.
Ibid., p.274.
Sand casting is a technique whereby a model is buried in sand to create a mould from which the bronze can be cast. Sand casting is quicker and less labour-intensive than the lost wax method but is also generally less suitable for reproducing very intricate shapes or surface details.
Curt Valentin, letter to Henry Moore, 17 February 1950, Tate Public Records TG 4/2/742/2.
Henry Moore, letter to John Rothenstein, 4 April 1950, Tate Public Records TG 4/2/742/2.
See Minutes of a Meeting of the Board of Trustees, 20 April 1950, Tate Public Records TG 4/2/742/2.
Henry Moore, letter to John Rothenstein, 25 May 1950, Tate Public Records TG 4/2/742/2.
John Rothenstein, letter to Henry Moore, 1 June 1950, Tate Public Records TG 4/2/742/2.
John Rothenstein, letter to Henry Moore, 4 December 1950, Tate Public Records TG 4/2/742/2.
See Eugène Rudier, letter to Norman Reid, 23 February 1951, Tate Public Records TG 4/2/742/2.
Henry Moore, letter to John Rothenstein, 28 April 1951, Tate Public Records TG 4/2/742/2.
These figures are based on those listed in a memo in the exhibition’s records. See Tate Public Records TG 92/344/2.
Anon., ‘“Belsen” Statue Came in the Night’, Daily Dispatch, 3 November 1950, cited in Berthoud 2003, p.261.
Anon., ‘Leicester Galleries Mr Henry Moore’, Times, 1 May 1951, p.6.
Henry Moore, letter to Evelyn S. Ringold, 24 February 1975, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
Penelope Curtis, ‘Family Group 1948–49’, in Mitchinson 2006, p.221.

Read full Catalogue entry


Meet 500 years of British Art - Room: Henry Moore

Chris Stephens explores the work of Henry Moore, the first permanent display of his work in London