1938, cast 1960
Bronze and elastic string on pine wood base
273 x 343 x 197 mm
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1960
In an edition of 12 plus 1 artist’s copy
Technique and condition
This is a small bronze sculpture that has a cupped tri-lobed form. For the viewer it appears that two sets of white elasticated strings span the undulating landscape of the interior concave surface, although the effect has actually been created by threading one single string back and forth through drilled holes in the bronze. One set of strings emerge from twenty holes in a circular formation from a protruding mound towards the top right of the sculpture and then re-enter the body of the form through a smaller circle in the lower right lobe.
Moore would have made an original version of this sculpture in plaster, building it up in successive layers and finally adding textures to create interest in the surface. A good example of this can be seen in the striations that highlight the contours of the small circular mound to the top of the sculpture (fig.4). When complete a mould was taken from this plaster original so that the sculpture could be reproduced in bronze. This bronze was cast in an edition of twelve by the Art Bronze Foundry in London. A bronze of this size is likely to have been cast using the lost wax technique. The surface has been cleaned and polished after casting to give the finished effect and has not been artificially patinated.
How to citeLyndsey Morgan, 'Technique and Condition', July 2013, in Alice Correia, ‘Stringed Figure 1938, cast 1960 by Henry Moore OM, CH’, catalogue entry, January 2013, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www
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.
The sculpture balances upright on the inward curve of two of its outer edges and is secured to a wooden base with two screws. On the rear of the sculpture, directly behind the swelling bump is a small removable disk, held in place with two screws. When removed, it is possible to see inside the sculpture, where the tied ends of the strings are revealed (fig.4). Two nuts have been welded to a metal cross-beam and are used to hold the bronze disk in place but may also be used to secure the sculpture to the base when it is repositioned and displayed sitting on its back (fig.5).
It is perhaps testament to Moore’s fondness for this work that an example of the sculpture was kept in the living room of his home. In the early 1960s Moore was photographed sitting in front of the sculpture by John Hedgecoe (fig.9). In the photograph, Stringed Figure is displayed as it is at Tate, standing on its edge so that the strings create a horizontal fence between the viewer and the interior of the curved bronze. However, another photograph taken in late 1962 shows the sculpture in the same spot in Hoglands but positioned on its back (fig.10). Indeed, when the work entered the Tate collection, photographs of the sculpture provided by Moore illustrated that the sculpture could also be exhibited lying on its back. The Arts Council exhibits its edition of Stringed Figure in this alternative orientation, so that the strings form a ceiling over the bronze.5 The artist’s daughter Mary Moore has stated that it was not unusual for Moore to orientate his works in two or more different positions, and that she prefers Stringed Figure on its back, ‘when it sits just there’.6
The unusual shapes of the mathematical objects and the use of shadow and line in Man Ray’s photographs, coupled with his prior knowledge of the use of strings in the mathematical models, perhaps offered Moore a way of marrying his interest in both the tense linearity of constructivism and surrealist transformation. Formal affinities can be seen between the base of one of the mathematical models pictured by Man Ray (fig.14), with its two upright forms and central oval relief, with Moore’s Stringed Relief 1937 (fig.15). This beechwood sculpture presents two unequally sized upright forms positioned on a rectangular base, separated by a hemispherical mound. The three elements of the sculpture are linked by three arrangements of strings. Works such as Stringed Relief were developments of Moore’s multi-part sculptures of the early 1930s in which, in his own words, he ‘began separating forms from each other in order to be able to relate space and form together’.20
The prevalence of this description of Moore’s use of strings exemplifies the consistency of the literature on his work throughout the artist’s lifetime. However, in 2004 curator Anita Feldman Bennet proposed another way of thinking about Moore’s use of strings.23 In her analysis of Moore’s interactions with space and string, Feldman Bennet proposed that his earlier lead sculpture Reclining Figure 1931 (fig.17) echoes ‘Picasso’s recurring motif of the female figure as a guitar ... anticipating Moore’s sculptural use of strings’.24 In the sculpture, a hollowed cavity in the figure’s torso is fenced in by three parallel bars; in light of Picasso’s cubist paintings such as Woman with a Guitar 1914 (fig.18), in which the female body and the instrument coalesce, it may be possible to view Moore’s Reclining Figure, and the later Stringed Figure, as a formal development of this notion of the body as instrument. This proposition is supported by the title of Tate’s sculpture, which is identified as a stringed ‘figure’.
How to cite
Alice Correia, ‘Stringed Figure 1938, cast 1960 by Henry Moore OM, CH’, catalogue entry, January 2013, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www