Catalogue entry

N05387 RECUMBENT FIGURE 1938

Not inscribed
Green Hornton stone, 35×52 1/4×29 (89×132·5×73·5).
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1939.
Coll: Serge Chermayeff 1938; repurchased by the artist, from whom purchased by the C.A.S. for presentation to the Tate Gallery 1939.
Exh: British Council, Contemporary British Art, New York World's Fair, 1939 (5, repr.); British Council, Brussels, Paris (repr.), Amsterdam (repr.), Hamburg (repr.), Düsseldorf (repr.), and Berne (repr.), 1949–50 (35); Arts Council, Tate Gallery, 1951 (109, repr. pl.35).
Lit: W. R. Valentiner, Origins of Modern Sculpture, New York, 1946, p.142, repr. pl.106; Sylvester in Burlington Magazine, xc, 1948, pp.163–4; Sylvester, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, 1951, p.14, repr. pl.35; E. H. Ramsden, Sculpture: Theme and Variations, 1953, p.40, repr. pl.86; Digby, 1955, pp.63, 66, 69, 74–5, repr. pl.22; Eduard Trier, Moderne Plastik, Frankfurt, 1955, p.63, repr. pl.71; Kenneth Clark, The Nude, 1956, pp.356–7, repr. pl.292; Read and Sylvester, 1, 1957, p.12, No.191, repr. pp.112–13; Russell, 1961, p.19.
Repr: Sweeney, 1946, p.48; John Rothenstein, The Tate Gallery, 1958, pl.18.

Moore's first important group of recumbent figures were the stone carvings of 1929–30 (e.g. those repr. Read and Sylvester, op. cit., pp.38–9 and 46–9); N05387, carved out of doors in 1938 at the artist's home, then at Kingston near Canterbury, is a development of the wooden recumbent figures of 1936 at Buffalo and Wakefield (repr. op. cit., pp.108–11). Two sheets of drawings of 1938 show similar figures (repr. op. cit., p.208) and there is a bronze maquette of the same year, 5 1/8 in. long.

N05387 was commissioned by the architect Chermayeff for the house he built for himself at Halland in Sussex. Moore chose a reclining rather than an upright figure to harmonize with the horizontal lines of the long, low-lying building. ‘It was then that I became aware of the necessity of giving outdoor sculpture a far-seeing gaze. My figure looked out across a great sweep of the Downs, and her gaze gathered in the horizon. The sculpture had no specific relationship to the architecture. It had its own identity and did not need to be on Chermayeff's terrace, but it, so to speak, enjoyed being there, and I think it introduced a harmonizing element; it became a mediator between modern home and ageless land’ (talk recorded by the artist for the British Council, 1955).

The artist has written of the holes in his sculpture: ‘A piece of stone can have a hole through it and not be weakened - if the hole is of a studied size, shape and direction. On the principle of the arch, it can remain just as strong. The first hole made through a piece of stone is a revelation. The hole connects one side to the other, making it immediately more three-dimensional. A hole can itself have as much shape-meaning as a solid mass. Sculpture in air is possible, where the stone contains only the hole, which is the intended and considered form. The mystery of the hole - the mysterious fascination of caves in hillsides and cliffs’ (‘The Sculptor Speaks’ in The Listener, 18 August 1937; reprinted op. cit., p.xxxiv).

At the outbreak of the war in 1939 N05387 was in the World Fair Exhibition at New York and it remained in the U.S.A. until 1945; during this time the head was broken off and subsequently restored.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II