Henry Moore OM, CH

Four-Piece Composition: Reclining Figure

1934

Medium
Cumberland alabaster
Dimensions
Object: 175 x 457 x 203 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased with assistance from the Art Fund 1976
Reference
T02054

Display caption

This work is carved in alabaster, dug from fields in Cumbria. The bone or stone-like shapes reflect Moore’s interest in organic and inorganic forms, while the incised lines echo both prehistoric stone carving and the work of Pablo Picasso. The individual pieces appear abstract, but also evoke a reclining female body, as Moore explained:

I realised what an advantage a separated... composition could have in relating figures to landscape. Knees and breasts are mountains. Once these... parts become separated you don’t expect it to be a naturalistic figure: therefore you can justifiably make it like a landscape or not.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

Entry

Four-Piece Composition: Reclining Figure is a carving in Cumberland alabaster comprising four separate elements positioned on a Purbeck marble base. The individual elements of the sculpture do not accurately resemble human body parts, but when seen together, and in accordance with the work’s title, the four pieces may be understood as individual limbs. In 1968 Henry Moore described the sculpture as comprising ‘the head part, the leg part, the body, and the small round form, which is the umbilicus and which makes a connection’.1 Although they are positioned in a compact arrangement none of the four pieces of the sculpture touch each other.
Henry Moore 'Four-Piece Composition: Reclining Figure' 1934
Fig.1
Henry Moore
Four-Piece Composition: Reclining Figure 1934
Tate T02054
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Henry Moore
Fig.2
Henry Moore
Detail of head and body of Four-Piece Composition: Reclining Figure 1934
Tate T02054
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved


The front view of the sculpture is usually deemed to be that which positions the tallest wheel-shaped form on the right (fig.1). Three of the pieces are positioned on a single plane at the front of the base while the fourth is to the rear. The wheel-shaped form represents not only the head but also the top part of the body, including the arms; it has a large curved U-shaped declivity carved out of the upper section (fig.2). The flat front side has been incised with two small, but different sized circles and a single curved, meandering line. The larger of the two circles is positioned to the right of the declivity and just above the end of the incised line. The other circle is positioned between the central peak of the line. Seen in relation to the carved out space, the larger circle may be regarded as an eye so that the concave space becomes akin to an open mouth. The rear of this piece is slightly concave and does not have any incisions.

Alice Correia
January 2013

Notes

1
Henry Moore cited in John Hedgecoe (ed.), Henry Moore, London 1968, p.77.
2
Cumberland was a county in north-west England from the twelfth century until 1974, when county boundaries were redrawn and it was absorbed into the neighbouring Lancashire and Cumbria.
3
Henry Moore cited in Gemma Levine, With Henry Moore: The Artist at Work, London 1978, p.146.
4
See Tate catalogue entries for Henry Moore, Standing Woman 1922 (Tate L01765) and Girl 1931 (Tate N06078) respectively.
5
[Morphet] 1979, p.117.
7
8
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.191.
9
[Morphet] 1979, p.119.
10
Moore 1934, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.192.
11
[Morphet] 1979, p.117–8.
12
Ibid., p.118.
13
Henry Moore, ‘A Sculptor Speaks’, Listener, 19 August 1937, pp.338–40, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.196–7.
14
Alan G. Wilkinson, Henry Moore Remembered: The Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Toronto 1987, p.88.
15
Ibid., p.88.
16
Ibid., p.89.
17
Henry Moore cited in John Russell, Henry Moore, London 1973, p.48.
18
[Morphet] 1979, pp.116–22.
19
Steven A. Nash, ‘Moore and Surrealism Reconsidered’, in Dorothy Kosinski (ed.), Henry Moore: Sculpting the 20th Century, exhibition catalogue, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas 2001, pp.43–51, note 17, p.51.
20
Henry Moore cited in [Morphet] 1979, p.121.
21
Ibid., p.121.
22
Ibid., pp.118, 121.
23
Ibid., p.121.
24
Hedgecoe 1968, p.83.
25
Moore cited in [Morphet] 1979, p.120.
26
Ibid., p.120.
27
Ibid., p.120.
28
Hedgecoe 1968, p.75.
29
Ibid., p.77.
30
[Morphet] 1979, p.119.
31
George Wingfield Digby, Meaning and Symbol in Three Modern Artists: Henry Moore,Edvard Munch, Paul Nash, London 1955, p.77.
32
T.S.Eliot, Ash Wednesday (1930), quoted in ibid, p.87.
33
Erich Neumann, The Archetypal World of Henry Moore, London 1959, p.23.
34
[Morphet] 1979, p.120.
35
Moore did not specify where he saw the engraved Paleolithic bones. However, it is known that he studied the collections of the British Museum intently throughout the 1920s.
36
[Morphet] 1979, p.118.
37
Russell 1973, p.82. David Sylvester, Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1968, p.63.
38
For a discussion of Picasso’s influence on Nicholson see Christopher Green, ‘Ben Nicholson and Picassso’, in James Beechy and Chris Stephens (eds.), Picasso and Modern British Art, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2012, pp.92–103.
39
[Morphet] 1979, p.121.
40
Henry Moore, ‘Interview with Elizabeth Blunt’, Kaleidoscope, BBC Radio 4, 9 April 1973, transcript reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.167. For further discussion on the debt Moore owed to Picasso see Herbert Read, Modern Sculpture, London 1964, pp.168–73, and Christa Lichtenstern, Henry Moore: Work-Theory-Impact, London 2008, pp.47–52.
41
Lichtenstern 2008, p.49. For a facsimile of Documents, vol.2, no.3, 1930, see http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k32951f.image, accessed 30 July 2012.
42
Christopher Green, ‘Henry Moore and Picasso’, in Beechy and Stephens 2012, p.131.
43
Ann Garrould has noted that ‘Moore originally dated the drawing 35, and then changed the “5” to a “4”’. Whether Moore did this at the time he made the drawing or sometime after is unknown. See Ann Garrould (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 2: Complete Drawings 1930–39, London 1998, p.117.
44
Christa Lichtenstern, ‘Henry Moore and Surrealism’, Burlington Magazine, vol.123, no. 944, November 1981, p.645.
45
See [Morphet] 1979, p.121. For an image of Giacometti’s sculpture see http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=81796, accessed 11 September 2013.
46
Michel Remy, Surrealism in Britain, Aldershot 1999, p.133.
47
[Morphet] 1979, p.121.
48
See Elizabeth Brown, ‘Moore Looking: Photography and the Presentation of Sculpture’, in Kosinski 2001, pp.287–95.
49
See ibid., p.288. Moore 1934 reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.191.
50
Brown 2001, p.289.
51
Charles Harrison, English Art and Modernism, 1981, revised edn, New Haven 1994, p.271.
52
See Marjorie B. Cohn (ed.), Lois Orswell, David Smith, and Modern Art, New Haven 2002.
53
Ralph F. Colin, letter to Richard Morphet, 7 February 1979, Tate Artist Catalogue File, Henry Moore, A23946.
54
Henry Moore, letter to Jane Wade, 13 September 1954, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.94.
55
David Anderson, letter to Richard Morphet, 1 May 1978, Tate Artist Catalogue File, Henry Moore, A23946.
56
Henry Moore, letter to David Anderson, 11 July 1973, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
57
David Anderson, letter to Richard Morphet, 1 May 1978, Tate Artist Catalogue File, Henry Moore, A23946.
58
Geoffrey Grigson, ‘Unit One, Herbert Read, and the Mayor Gallery’, Bookman, October 1933, p.31.
59
See ‘Obituary: Mr. F.H. Mayor: Connoisseur of Painting’, Times, 28 June 1973, p.18.
60
Richard Morphet, memo to Norman Reid, 22 January 1976, Tate Archive TG/4/2/742/4.

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