Room 7: Elm
The Reclining Figure was Moore’s principal and enduring subject. It gave him the freedom, compositionally and spatially, to ‘invent a completely new form-idea’. Moore carved six large reclining figures in Elmwood between 1935 and 1978. The group brought together for this exhibition demonstrates his continuing innovation in interpreting a theme in a particular material. Before the spread of Dutch Elm Disease, Elmwood was the largest and most common tree species native to Britain. The timber has a wide grain, which suited Moore’s larger carvings. Elm surpassed stone in the formal possibilities it offered the sculptor. The large 1939 piece, in particular, with its multiple hollows, demonstrates the development of Moore’s carving and his aspiration to bring space and form into equilibrium. The sense of growth in wood was significant for Moore. In the spirit of truth to materials, he exploited the pattern of the grain and the length of the timber to define and accentuate different parts of the body. These elm sculptures have been discussed in terms of their sexuality, fecundity and symbolic resonance with the landscape. Moore sought to invest his reclining figures with ‘repose’ in a perfect union of subject, technique and material.