Henry Moore OM, CH

Draped Reclining Woman

1957–8, cast date unknown

Not on display

Henry Moore OM, CH 1898–1986
1346 × 2083 × 914 mm
Presented by Gustav and Elly Kahnweiler 1974, accessioned 1994


Draped Reclining Woman was made in an edition of six casts (of which this is number two) plus an artist’s proof. Other casts are in the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, Norwich, the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich, the Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, and the Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena. The plaster working model is in the collection of the Henry Moore Sculpture Center, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.

The reclining figure was a recurring theme in Moore’s work. The artist liked its compositional and spatial freedom, as well as its ability to express repose. Moreover, he stated: ‘A reclining figure can recline on any surface. It is free and stable at the same time. It fits in with my belief that sculpture should be permanent, should last for eternity.’ (Quoted in Henry Moore, 1987, p.6.) The classicising drapery covering this large reclining figure lends an air of timelessness to a sculpture which is nevertheless resolutely modern. At the same time, its rough texture and numerous creases – sinking and protruding, at times fine and delicate and at others large and heavy – call to mind the uneven furrows and mounds of a hilly landscape. Moore compared the folds of drapery, when seen close-up, to the forms of mountains which, he said, ‘are the crinkled skin of the earth.’ (Quoted in Henry Moore, 1987, p.6.)

Moore’s interest in drapery as a sculptural element dates back to the Second World War when, as an official ‘war artist’, he made drawings of people huddled in the bomb shelters that had been improvised in London’s Underground tunnels. His first visit to Greece in 1951, where he saw classical studies of draped figures, strengthened this interest and, as a result, he made a number of figures wearing draped clothing throughout the 1950s. Moore came to believe that drapery can make the shape of a figure both more expressive and more sculptural. In 1954 he stated, ‘Drapery can emphasise the tension in a figure, for where the form pushes outwards ... it can be pulled tight across the form (almost like a bandage), and by contrast with the crumpled slackness of the drapery which lies between the salient points, the pressure from inside is intensified.’ (Quoted in Wilkinson, 2002, p.280.)

Further reading:
Henry Moore: Maquettes and Working Models, exhibition catalogue, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City 1987
Alan Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershot 2002, p.239.
Giorgia Bottinelli, ‘Henry Moore’, in Jennifer Mundy (ed.), Cubism and its Legacy: The Gift of Gustav and Elly Kahnweiler, exhibition catalogue, Tate Modern, London 2004, pp.82-7, reproduced p.87 in colour

Giorgia Bottinelli
March 2004

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