Henry Moore OM, CH

Reclining Figure

1951

On display at Tate Britain

Medium
Plaster and string
Dimensions
Object: 1054 x 2273 x 892 mm, 271 kg
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the artist 1978
Reference
T02270

Display caption

In the late 1940s, the Arts Council invited Moore to submit ideas for a sculpture to be sited at the South Bank site of the Festival of Britain. Although the organising committee suggested a family theme, Moore chose to make this tense, skeletal reclining form. The work on display is the plaster model for the bronze, which was cast in an edition of five.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

Entry

Originally commissioned by the Arts Council of Great Britain for the 1951 Festival of Britain, Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure is the original plaster from which a bronze edition of the sculpture was cast.1 It presents a reclining figure comprised of variously thin and bulbous tubular forms over which a dense network of lines created by string delineates and decorates the contours of the body.
Henry Moore 'Reclining Figure' 1951
Fig.1
Henry Moore
Reclining Figure 1951
Tate T02270
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
The head strains vertically upwards and features a U-shaped incision between two recessed eye sockets that from some angles may be regarded as an open mouth (fig.1). Extending vertically downwards from the two shoulders are arms that bend at right angles on the base so that the forearms point horizontally in the same direction as the body and legs. Both hands are rendered schematically, but while the left is clenched into a fist the right mitten-like hand rests flat on the base. The figure has no torso as such but a flat, concave chest that projects almost horizontally outwards and culminates in a barrel-like form. Rounded protrusions between the underside of the body and the armpit may be regarded as breasts. Two thin spurs, approximately the same diameter as the arms, project down from the lower corners of the barrel-like form and merge into legs that intertwine fluidly in an anatomically impossible fashion. While the right-hand spur juts out to the right before swelling into two large, rounded ridges that resemble knees, the left thigh lies flat on the base and only connects to its calf by curving into the arch formed by the nearest knee. Here the legs separate into two recognisable calves that get progressively thinner as they reach the base.
Henry Moore
Fig.2
Henry Moore
Reclining Figure 1951 (view of right leg)
Tate T02270
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Henry Moore
Fig.3
Henry Moore
Reclining Figure 1951 (view from behind head)
Tate T02270
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved


Overall Reclining Figure has an open, skeletal form, although the scale and shape of some features – such as the right buttock, thigh and knee – have been exaggerated to give a sense of fleshy volume (fig.2). Viewing the sculpture from one end, it is possible to see all the way from the head to the ankles through a sequence of hollows that run through the body (fig.3).

Origins and facture

Sources and development

The Festival of Britain

Critical reception

The Henry Moore Gift

Alice Correia
January 2014

Notes

1
The official title of the work is Reclining Figure, although it has also been known as Reclining Figure: Festival. See, for example, Anita Feldman and Malcolm Woodward, Henry Moore: Plasters, London 2011, p.54.
2
Eric Newton, ‘What Do The Public Think?: Henry Moore’s New Work at the Festival’, Art Fortnightly, 11 May 1951, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
3
Ibid.
4
Christa Lichtenstern, Henry Moore: Work-Theory-Impact, London 2008, p.101.
5
Henry Moore, dir. John Read, television programme, broadcast BBC, 30 April 1951, http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/henrymoore/8801.shtml, accessed 13 January 2014.
6
Katerina Loukopoulou, ‘The Mobile Framing of Henry Moore’s Sculpture in Post-War Britain’, Visual Culture in Britain, vol.13, no.1, 2012, p.63.
7
Ibid., p.77.
8
John Read cited in Loukopoulou 2012, p.75.
9
See Eric Newton, ‘The Evolution of a Genius’, Radio Times, 27 April 1951, Tate Archive TGA 8015–8.
10
See Roger Berthoud, The Life of Henry Moore, 1987, revised edn, London 2003, p.271.
11
Henry Moore cited in John Hedgecoe (ed.), Henry Moore, London 1968, p.266.
12
Ibid., p.300.
13
Alan G. Wilkinson, Henry Moore Remembered: The Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Toronto 1987, p.137.
14
Ibid.
15
Ibid.
16
The Arts Council subsequently lent this cast to Leeds City Art Gallery and, after having been placed in the grounds of Temple Newsam House, was vandalized there in early November 1953. In 1956 it was removed from public view before being loaned to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 1961. Its ownership was later transferred to the Scottish Arts Council, which presented it to the National Galleries of Scotland in 1969. Another bronze cast is housed in the collection of the Musée national d’art moderne, Paris, and other examples from the edition are believed to be held in private collections. In February 2012 one of these was sold at Christie’s, London, for £19.1 million, which was a record price for a bronze sculpture by Henry Moore. See Colin Gleadell, ‘Modern Sales Review: When Moore Means More’, Daily Telegraph, 13 February 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/artsales/9080076/Modern-sales-review-when-Moore-means-more.html, accessed 13 January 2014.
17
Prior to making Reclining Figure the only other plaster sculpture Moore had made on a large scale was Family Group 1948–9.
18
David Mitchinson, ‘A Note on the Plasters’, in Claude Allemand-Cosneau, Manfred Fath and David Mitchinson (eds.), Henry Moore From the Inside Out: Plasters, Carvings and Drawings, Munich 1996, p.59.
19
Margaret McLeod, letter to Richard Calvocoressi, 18 August 1980, Tate Artist Catalogue File, Henry Moore, A23946.
20
Henry Moore cited in Henry J. Seldis, Henry Moore in America, New York 1973, p.222.
21
Ibid., pp.222–3.
22
See ‘T02270 Henry Moore: Reclining Figure’, Tate Conservation Records.
23
Moore cited in Hedgecoe 1968, p.188.
24
Henry Moore cited in J.D. Morse, ‘Henry Moore Comes to America’, Magazine of Art, vol.40, no.3, March 1947, pp.97–101, reprinted in Philip James (ed.), Henry Moore on Sculpture, London 1966, p.264.
25
David Sylvester, Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1968, p.7.
26
Henry Moore cited in John Russell, Henry Moore, London 1968, p.28.
27
Henry Moore, ‘A Sculptor Speaks’, Listener, 18 August 1937, pp.338–40, reprinted in Alan Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershott 2002, p.194.
28
Ibid., p.194
29
Henry Moore cited in Felix Man, Eight European Artists, London 1954, unpaginated.
30
Newton, ‘What Do The Public Think?’, 1951, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
31
Ibid.
32
Moore cited in Man 1954, unpaginated.
33
Rudolf Arnheim, ‘The Holes of Henry Moore: On the Function of Space in Sculpture’, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, vol.7, no.1, September 1948, pp.29–38.
34
Ibid., p.36.
35
Ibid., p.33.
36
Ibid., p.38.
37
Ian Cox, The South Bank Exhibition: A Guide to the Story It Tells, London 1951, p.8.
38
Philip Hendy, ‘Art on the South Bank’, Britain Today, July 1951, p.31.
39
Newton, ‘What Do The Public Think?’, 1951, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
40
Ibid.
41
Elizabeth Brown, ‘Moore Looking: Photography and the Presentation of Sculpture’, in Dorothy Kosinski (ed.), Henry Moore: Sculpting the 20th Century, exhibition catalogue, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas 2001, p.294.
42
Richard Cork, ‘An Art of the Open Air’, in Susan Compton (ed.), Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy of Arts, London 1988, p.20.
43
Ibid., p.20.
44
Anon., ‘Leeds Gets Monstrosity: Reclining Figure, the Storm Bursts in Yorks’, Yorkshire Evening Post, 8 November 1951, cited in Berthoud 2003, p.272.
45
Henry Moore, ‘Sculpture in the Open Air: A Talk by Henry Moore on his Sculpture and its Placing in Open-Air Sites’, ed. by Robert Melville, London 1955, reprinted in Philip James (ed.), Henry Moore on Sculpture, London 1966, p.101.
46
Arie Hartog, ‘The Centre of Modern Sculpture: Some Thoughts on Hepworth and Moore’ in Penelope Curtis and Keith Wilson (eds.), Modern British Sculpture, Royal Academy, London 2011, pp.156–7.
47
Hendy 1951, p.31.
48
Anon., ‘Exhibitions’, Architectural Review, August 1951, p.142.
49
Francis Watson, ‘Art at the South Bank Exhibition’, Listener, 10 May 1951, p.766.
50
David Sylvester, ‘Festival Sculpture’, Studio, September 1951, p.74.
51
Ibid., pp.74–5.
52
Ibid., p.75.
53
For this image see http://punch.photoshelter.com/image/I0000zfvqvF7AluU, accessed 10 January 2014.
54
David Thompson, ‘Recumbent Figure by Henry Moore’, Listener, 25 November 1965, p.860.
55
Ibid., p.860.
56
William Feaver, ‘Henry Moore in All Directions’, Observer, 16 July 1978, p.25.
57
For the exhibition catalogue accompanying Moore’s exhibitions in Canada and New Zealand see http://www.aucklandartgallery.com/media/166376/cat9.pdf, accessed 13 January 2014.
58
Mark Stocker, ‘The Best Thing Ever Seen in New Zealand: The Henry Moore Exhibition of 1956–57’, Sculpture Journal, vol.16, no.1, 2007, p.88.
59
Katarzyna Murawska-Muthesius, ‘Dreams of the Sleeping Beauty: Henry Moore in Polish Art Criticism and Media, Post-1945’ in Jane Beckett and Fiona Russell, Henry Moore: Critical Essays, Leeds 2003, pp.195–220.
60
Ibid., pp.197, 211.
61
Our Art Critic [David Thompson], ‘Mr. Henry Moore’s Exhilarating Exhibition’, Times, 28 November 1960, p.6.
62
Lawrence Alloway, ‘London Letter’, Art International, vol.4, no.10, December 1960, p.50.
63
Ibid.
64
Ibid.
65
Ibid.
66
Erich Neumann, The Archetypal World of Henry Moore, London 1959, p.109.
67
Ibid.
68
Ibid., p.81.
69
Ibid., p.82.
70
Curtis and Wilson 2011, p.148.
71
Will Grohmann, The Art of Henry Moore, London 1960, p.53.
72
Cork 1988, p.20.
73
Herbert Read, Henry Moore: A Study of his Life and Work, London 1965, p.160.
74
Alice Correia, ‘Reclining Figure: Festival’, in Penelope Curtis (ed.), Tate Britain Companion Guide, London 2013, p.166.
75
Cork 1988, p.20.
76
Ibid., p.20.
77
Lichtenstern 2008, p.104.
78
See ‘Note on the Henry Moore Gift’, 1978, Tate Public Records TG 4/6/10/4.
79
These figures are based on those listed in a memo in the records for the exhibition. See Tate Public Records TG 92/344/2.
80
Norman Reid, letter to Mary Danowski, 31 August 1978, Tate Public Records TG 4/6/10/4.

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