Henry Moore OM, CH

Woman

1957–8, cast date unknown

On display at Tate Britain

Medium
Bronze
Dimensions
Object: 1441 x 791 x 921 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the artist 1978
Reference
T02280

Display caption

This is one of the largest of Moore's sculptures of a seated female nude, and it was cast in an edition of nine. The original plaster is in the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, and the curator there, Alan Wilkinson, has described this sculpture as 'one of the most potent images of fertility produced in the 20th century'. He also related it to Moore's early interest in Palaeolithic sculpture, an influence the artist readily acknowledged. Moore wrote of the work: ''Woman' has that startling fullness of the stomach and breasts. The smallness of the head is necessary to emphasize the massiveness of the body - if the head had been any larger it would have ruined the whole idea of the sculpture.'

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

Entry

Woman 1957–8 is one of the last in a series of bronze sculptures of seated women that Henry Moore made in the 1950s. This naked figure, presented sitting upright on a plinth, has a large, bulbous torso and a disproportionately small head, but what is most striking is that it has no arms, while its legs resemble stumps and appear to have been truncated at the knees.
Fig.1
Detail of head and neck of Woman 1957–8, cast date unknown
Tate T02280
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
The figure’s elliptical head is turned to the right and is roughly the same height and width as the neck, which from certain angles appears to be pulled back, slightly lifting the chin (fig.1). A long, prismatic nose runs down the middle of the face, on either side of which eyes of different shapes and sizes have been defined. A single incision or scar runs parallel to the left-hand edge of the nose and a concave depression appears on the right side of the forehead. As with many of Moore’s female figures, Woman has a distinct mass of hair comprising two buns at the rear and a rounded oblong extending diagonally across the left side of the head.
The upper half of the torso is almost wholly formed by two enormous breasts, while the lower half is defined by a prominent central ridge (fig.2). The left breast is larger than the right and both project further than the ridge below. Circular incisions have been made on the breasts and ridge to signify nipples and the navel respectively. The mass of the rounded belly is emphasised by the concave sweep of the left hip and the torso as a whole is twisted slightly so that the broad, flat shoulders are oriented to the right. The shoulder sockets on either side of the torso are heavily textured with gouges. In contrast, the surrounding surfaces are more lightly textured, which gives the impression that the figure once had arms and that they were forcibly amputated (fig.3).

From plaster to bronze

Sources and development

The Henry Moore Gift

Alice Correia
December 2013

Notes

1
Ann Garrould (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 4: Complete Drawings 1950–76, London 2003, p.129.
2
Henry Moore cited in John Hedgecoe (ed.), Henry Moore, London 1968, p.300.
3
See Roger Berthoud, The Life of Henry Moore, 1987, 2nd edn, London 2003, pp.323–4.
4
Henry Moore, letter to Heinz Ohff, 8 March 1967, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
5
For a video explaining the lost wax process see http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/s/sculpture-techniques/, accessed 16 January 2014.
6
Henry Moore in ‘Henry Moore Talking to David Sylvester’, 7 June 1963, transcript of Third Programme, broadcast BBC Radio, 14 July 1963, p.4, Tate Archive TGA 200816. (An edited version of this interview was published in the Listener, 29 August 1963, pp.305–7.)
7
Ibid., p.4.
8
Donald Hall, Henry Moore: The Life and Work of a Great Sculptor, London 1966, p.144.
9
Moore cited in Hedgecoe 1968, p.326.
10
See Ann Garrould (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 1: Complete Drawings 1916–29, London 1996, p.149.
11
Alan G. Wilkinson, Henry Moore Remembered: The Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Toronto 1987, p.183.
12
Ibid., p.183.
13
Erich Neumann, The Archetypal World of Henry Moore, London 1959, p.31.
14
Ibid., pp.31–2.
15
Ibid., p.32.
16
Ibid.
17
Alan Bowness (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 4: Complete Sculpture 1964–73, London 1977, p.8.
18
Anne Wagner, ‘Henry Moore’s Mother’, Representations, no.65, winter 1999, p.94.
19
Ibid., p.109.
20
Henry Moore, ‘Henry Moore Talks About His Life as a Sculptor’, Listener, 24 January 1974, p.103.
21
Henry Moore cited in Peter Webb, The Erotic Arts, London 1983, pp.378–9, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.115.
22
Grohmann 1960, p.229.
23
Ibid., p.229.
24
Ibid., p.229.
25
Ibid., pp.230–1.
26
See ‘Note on the Henry Moore Gift’, 1978, Tate Public Records TG 4/6/10/4.
27
These figures are based on those listed in a memo in the records for the exhibition. See Tate Public Records TG 92/344/2.
28
Norman Reid, letter to Mary Danowski, 31 August 1978, Tate Public Records TG 4/6/10/4.

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