Henry Moore OM, CH Three Motives against a Wall No. I 1958

Artwork details

Artist
Henry Moore OM, CH 1898–1986
Title
Three Motives against a Wall No. I
Date 1958
Medium Bronze on copper and wooden base
Dimensions Object: 505 x 1080 x 440 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Transferred from the Victoria & Albert Museum 1983
Reference
T03763
Not on display

Catalogue entry

Henry Moore 1898-1986

T03763 Three Motives against Wall No.1 1958

Bronze 505 x 1080 x 440 (19 7/8 x 42 1/2 x 17 7/8)
Not inscribed
Purchased from the artist by the Victoria and Albert Museum 1960 (Circ.234-1961); transferred to the Tate Gallery 1983
Repr: Henry Moore: Volume 3: Complete Sculpture 1955-64, 1965, pls 68, 69; A. Bowness (ed.), Henry Moore: Volume 3: Complete Sculpture 1955-64, second revised edition, 1986, pl.75 LH441

T03763 is LH441 in the Lund Humphries catalogue raisonné listing of Moore's complete sculpture. It is complemented by LH442,’Three Motives against Wall No.2', executed in 1959, a cast of which is in the collection of the Tate Gallery (T02281). Volume 3 of Moore's complete sculpture has an introduction by Herbert Read, which devotes much of its text to a consideration of Moore's commission in 1956 from UNESCO to execute a large sculpture to be placed in front of the main facade of the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Having received the commission in 1956, Moore worked on it throughout 1957 and the final figure, a reclining female, was unveiled at UNESCO in Paris in October 1958. T03763, which belongs to the year of the UNESCO unveiling, is related to the maquettes which Moore produced while trying out ideas for the UNESCO commission. Herbert Read, in his introduction to Volume 3, explained:

In the case of the UNESCO commission he had to invent both concept and image, some symbol that had relevance to the educational and scientific aims of the institution established by the United Nations. There are several illustrations in this volume which show the artist struggling with the problem (in particular the sequence of eight maquettes in plaster, plates 50 and 51). Some of these maquettes ... also illustrate the subsidiary but still very harassing problem of having to accommodate the piece of sculpture against a background of busy fenestration which tended to destroy its outlines and mass. The sculptor played with the possibility of interposing his own wall between the figure and the building, and though this solution was abandoned, it led to a theme,’the wall', which the sculptor was to exploit later (p.6).

The wall theme begins to appear as a curved concave form behind single seated female figures in three of the eight plaster maquettes for the UNESCO figure mentioned by Read; their numbers in the catalogue of Moore's complete sculpture are LH421 ‘Maquette for Seated Figure against Curved Wall' 1955 (repr. Volume 3, pl.50a), LH422 ‘Seated Figure against Curved Wall' 1956-7 (repr. ibid., p.33) and LH423 ‘Draped Seated Figure against Curved Wall' 1956-7 (repr. ibid., pl.50c). These three works are followed in the catalogue raisonné by two in which the female seated figure is nude and bony, and the background wall is a flat rectangular slab behind; the two works are LH424 ‘Maquette for Girl Seated against Square Wall' 1957 (repr. ibid., p.33) and LH425 ‘Girl Seated against Square Wall' 1957-8 (repr. ibid., pl.54). The flat walls behind these two figures are enlivened by configurations of small rectangular or nearly square depresssions, which impart an architectural reference. One cast of LH424 is in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, and Alan Wilkinson in his entry on this work in Henry Moore Remembered: The Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, 1987, noted:’ Rectangular slotted walls first appear in the drawings as early as 1936 as a background for sculptural ideas. In some of the drawings diagonal walls lead into the picture space and with the background wall create a claustrophobic, cell-like setting, as in ‘Ideas for Sculpture in a Setting' of 1938' (p.177). The rectangular slotted wall seen in the background of the drawing ‘Ideas for Sculpture in a Setting', which Wilkinson cites and illustrates, adumbrates the background wall in T03763.

The component parts of T03763 are three small figures, reading from left to right, one seated, one reclining and one standing, set in front of a rectangular wall. The middle figure appears on its own as a separate work entitled ‘Animal Form' 1959, LH443 (repr. Volume 3, pl.77). Judging from the patterning left on the surface of this wall which reveals the imprint of a roughly dressed section of wooden planking, Moore could either have cast a plaster copy from a wooden original to serve as the wall, and then cut the rectangular and square recesses out of the plaster, or cut the recesses into a plank of wood and then had this cast into bronze without a plaster intermediate stage. The three figures have the appearance of worked-on bones and flints, natural objects cast into plaster and then modified with further plaster additions. ‘Three Motives against Wall No.2' also has a rectangular background wall with geometrical depressions, in front of which are three forms (repr. Volume 3, pl.76). In this second version however, the forms display little of the figurative characteristics of those found in T03763, and remain much closer to the flint stones or bones which inspired them.

‘Three Motives against Wall No.1' is in an edition of 12 and was cast during 1959-60. According to records at The Henry Moore Foundation, T03763 is the sixth cast of the edition, and was cast in 1959.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.541-2

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