Henry Moore OM, CH

Stringed Figure

1938, cast 1960

Henry Moore OM, CH 1898–1986
Bronze and elastic string
Object: 273 x 343 x 197 mm
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1960

Not on display

Display caption

The first, wooden, version of this sculpture was lost during the Second World War. Moore made a modified version in plaster in 1960 and cast it in bronze. In his use of strings in this and other sculptures of 1937-9 Moore was influenced by Naum Gabo's interest in articulating space. However, this practice is also an extension of Moore's interest in the intersection of space and solid as exemplified by pierced forms. Writing in 'Circle' the scientist J. D. Bernal stated that 'Negative curvature ... is characteristic of much modern work, as are subtle inflections and the use of nodal points.' This sculpture suggests, in an abstract way, a reclining female figure.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry


Stringed Figure is an asymmetrical sculpture made of bronze and two sets of elasticated strings. The bronze part of the sculpture is concave like a bowl, and has an irregular rimmed edge that curves into three rounded petal-like forms. It sits upright on its side and is attached to a pine wood base (fig.1). Within the hollowed space of the bronze are two very different protrusions. On the left-hand side is a ridge, triangular in profile, which projects outwards from the concave bronze base, forming a wall or barrier between the left-hand petal and the other two-thirds of the sculpture. The second protrusion – a rounded bump that appears to swell from the concave surface – is near the top of the sculpture in the middle.

The triangular ridge acts as an intersection for a set of white elasticated strings which span across the sculpture from the left-hand edge to the right-hand edge. On the left near the rim, the bronze has been pierced by twenty tiny holes in the shape of an incomplete circle (fig.2). The string has been threaded through the holes, and from the rear creates a running stitch pattern. Seen from the concave front, the twenty strings extend from this near circular arrangement and stretch in a parallel formation towards the triangular prism, which has been pierced with a straight row of holes running along its top. Each string passes through one hole and out the other side of the prism, from which they fan outwards towards the right of the sculpture. The string then threads through twenty holes that parallel the curved edge of the right-hand rim so that, when seen from the rear, they form an arc of stitches (fig.3). Passing through the protruding prism the strings create a type of v-shape as they spread more-or-less horizontally inwards from the outer left edge, and then outwards towards the right edge.

Alice Correia
January 2013


Henry Moore, letter to Martin Butlin, 13 April 1961, Tate Artist Catalogue File, Henry Moore, A23942.
See Henry J. Seldis, Henry Moore in America, New York 1973, p.37.
Henry Moore at Perry Green, London 2011, p.34.
Henry Moore, Stringed Figure 1938, Arts Council Collection, http://www.artscouncilcollection.org.uk/artwork/stringed-figure, accessed 10 September 2015.
Mary Moore, ‘Stringed Figure’, in Gregor Muir (ed.), Henry Moore: Ideas for Sculpture, exhibition catalogue, Hauser & Wirth, London 2010, p.130.
David Sylvester, Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1968, pp.104–5.
Henry Moore cited in John Hedgecoe (ed.), Henry Moore, London 1968, p.105.
See Sylvester 1968, p.165.
Jane Wess, ‘The History of Mathematical Surface Models’, in Intersections: Henry Moore and Stringed Surfaces, exhibition catalogue, Royal Society and Science Museum, London 2012, p.7.
See Hedgecoe 1968, p.105.
Martin Hammer and Christina Lodder, ‘Hepworth and Gabo: A Constructivist Dialogue’, in David Thistlewood (ed.), Barbara Hepworth Reconsidered, Liverpool 1996, p.116.
Barbara Hepworth, letter to Ben Nicholson, 20 December 1935, Tate Archive TGA 8717/1/1/45–397.
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, p.48.
J. Desmond Bernal, ‘Art and the Scientist’, in Leslie Martin, Ben Nicholson and Naum Gabo (eds.), Circle: International Survey of Constructive Art, London 1937, pp.119–23.
Alfred H. Barr, Cubism and Abstract Art, New York 1936, p.133.
See Jacky Klein, ‘Model for ‘Construction in Space ‘Crystal’’ 1937 by Naum Gabo’, summary, September 2002, http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/gabo-model-for-construction-in-space-crystal-t02179/text-summary, accessed 14 January 2013.
Cahiers d’Art, May 1936, no.1–2, pp.21–6.
For an online copy of the exhibition catalogue of the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition see http://www.romanianculture.org/downloads/Surrealism%20Catalogue.pdf, accessed 10 September 2012. For installation images of mathematical models on display in the Exposition surréaliste d’objets in 1936 see Dawn Ades (ed.), Dada and Surrealism Reviewed, exhibition catalogue, Hayward Gallery, London 1978, pp.322, 450.
Moore cited in Hedgecoe 1968, p.75.
David Sylvester, ‘The Evolution of Henry Moore’s Sculpture: I’, Burlington Magazine, vol.90, no.543, June 1948, p.164.
David Sylvester, Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1951, p.16, as quoted in Erich Neumann, The Archetypal World of Henry Moore, London 1959, p.69. See also Herbert Read, Henry Moore: A Study of his Life and Work, London 1965, pp.121–2, and John Russell, Henry Moore, London 1973, p.90.
Anita Feldman Bennet, ‘Surrealism, Space and String: Henry Moore’s Bird Basket’, in Henry Moore at Dulwich Picture Gallery, exhibition catalogue, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London 2004, pp.25–33.
Ibid., p.29.
[Richard Morphet], ‘Henry Moore: Four-Piece Composition 1934’, The Tate Gallery 1976–8: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1979, p.120.
Henry Moore, ‘A Sculptor Speaks’, Listener, 18 August 1937, pp.338–40, reprinted in Alan Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, London 2002, p.198.
Henry Moore cited in Carlton Lake, ‘Henry Moore’s World’, Atlantic Monthly, January 1962, p.42, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.256.
Peter Fuller, Henry Moore: An Interpretation, London 1993, p.32.
Henry Moore cited in Gemma Levine, Henry Moore: Wood Sculpture, London 1983, p.102.
Roger Berthoud, The Life of Henry Moore, 1987, 2nd edn, London 2003, p.183.
Tate cannot acquire works of art by artists while they are serving as trustees.
Minutes of Meeting of the Trustees of the Tate Gallery, 16 May 1957, Tate Public Records TG/4/2/742/2.
Jane Lascelles, letter to Henry Moore, 1 June 1961, Tate Public Records TG/20/6/1.
See Mary Moore 2010, p.130, and the Arts Council Collection, http://www.artscouncilcollection.org.uk/collection, accessed 10 September 2015.

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