Henry Moore Study of a Mother Suckling Child 1922–4
Henry Moore
Study of a Mother Suckling Child 1922–4

Room 2: Mother and Child

Moore considered the Mother and Child theme a universal subject ‘from the beginning of time’; an ‘inexhaustible’ motif that offered him new sculptural possibilities throughout his career. This was especially true at the beginning of the 1930s, the focus of this room. Moore often explained his fixation with the Mother and Child in straightforward compositional terms – the relationship of a small form with a big form – and ideas of protection and nurture. Yet the sculptures reveal a more complex treatment of the theme. Moore admired the unsentimental handling of North American mother-and-child figures, and their influence can be found in his approaches to the relationship. Although physically bonded, the intimacy of Moore’s figures is ambiguous: heads twist and look away, bodies are kept at arm reach and the gaze of mother and infant is rarely met. In Suckling Child the forms are abstracted with the mother defined only by the breast from which the baby feeds. Did the fact that Moore’s marriage remained childless for over a decade underlie his interest in mother-and-child figures? He claimed no interest in contemporary psychoanalytic readings of human drives and behaviour, but later conceded: ‘I suppose it could be explained as a ‘ “Mother complex”.’

Henry Moore Mother and Child, 1932

Henry Moore
Mother and Child, 1932

Photo: James Austin
Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection, UEA, Norwich

© Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation

Henry Moore Mother and Child, 1931

Henry Moore
Mother and Child, 1931

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington

© Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation

Henry Moore Mother and Child, 1930

Henry Moore
Mother and Child, 1930

Private Collection (Manfred Gorvy) DC
© Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation