Henry Moore OM, CH Reclining Figure: Bunched 1961

Summary

Reclining Figure: Bunched, 1961, is the model for a marble sculpture of the same title (1960/9, private collection). It was cast in an edition of nine (of which this is number nine) plus an artist’s proof. A soft-edged, abstract rendition of a reclining figure, its undulating, organic shape lent itself to be recreated in travertine, a creamy, richly-veined marble. Moore was fascinated by natural forms and often incorporated shapes derived from his observation of objects such as pebbles, bones and driftwood into his work.

The reclining figure was a recurring theme in Moore’s work. The artist liked its compositional and spatial freedom, as well as its ability to express repose. Moreover, he stated: ‘A reclining figure can recline on any surface. It is free and stable at the same time. It fits in with my belief that sculpture should be permanent, should last for eternity.’ (Quoted in Henry Moore, 1987, p.6.)

At the beginning of his career Moore worked mostly in stone. Subscribing to the modernist ethos of ‘truth to material’, his early pieces were carved directly, and not made from models by assistants. However, in the mid-1930s he began to vary his approach, often making clay maquettes that he would use to create the final work. Moore eventually moved on to casting his work in bronze as well as carving it in stone or wood. Liberated from the constraints of carving, the artist almost entirely eliminated drawing from his working process by the mid-1950s and explored his ideas through small maquettes. These had an intrinsic quality of immediacy or spontaneity and allowed him to imagine the finished product in the round. In 1968 he said, ‘with the kind of sculpture I do now, I need to know it from on top and from underneath as well as from all sides. And so I prefer to work out my ideas in the form of small maquettes which I can hold in my hand and look at from every point of view.’ (Quoted in Wilkinson, 2002, p.239.) In order to translate the scale of the work more effectively from portable to over life-size, he often made larger working models as an intermediate stage between the maquette and the finished sculpture.

Moore’s maquettes were typically cast in bronze in editions of up to ten. The sculptor strove for monumentality in his work and tried to imbue the same quality in the small maquettes. He also took a great deal of care with their finish. Some were more polished than others, some darker, some greener. Moore did all the patination himself, treating the bronze with different acids to achieve different effects then working on it by hand, rubbing and wearing it down.

Further reading:
Henry Moore: Maquettes and Working Models, exhibition catalogue, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City 1987
Alan Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershot 2002
Giorgia Bottinelli, ‘Henry Moore’, in Jennifer Mundy (ed.), Cubism and its Legacy: The Gift of Gustav and Elly Kahnweiler, exhibition catalogue, Tate Modern, London 2004, pp.82-7, reproduced p.85 in colour

Giorgia Bottinelli
March 2004

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