Henry Moore OM, CH

Maquette for Family Group


Henry Moore OM, CH 1898–1986
Object: 127 × 98 × 63 mm
Purchased 1945

Display caption

These maquettes, or preparatory models, were made during the mid-1940s, when Moore was working on a commission
for a sculpture for a progressive school
for children and parents. The theme
of the family was particularly relevant.


In the end none of Moore's designs were chosen. Four years later he re-considered these models when planning a commission for a similarly progressive school, Barclay Secondary School in Stevenage. A cast
of the full scale Family Group he made for the school is on display in this gallery. Later still, Moore used these maquettes as source material for the other family groups.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry


Maquette for Family Group depicts a man and woman seated on a low bench holding a small child between them. The woman sits to the man’s right and although she holds the bulk of the child, the man’s left arm supports the child’s legs while his right hand rests on the woman’s left shoulder (fig.1). The heads of the mother and child are spherical in shape, whereas the father’s head has been cleaved in two, and appears to represent an open mouth facing upwards. Other details also serve to differentiate the adults. The woman has small domed breasts and wears an ankle length skirt that drapes between her knees and stretches across the gap between her shins. Her legs are positioned straight out in front of her, while the man’s thin, tubular legs are positioned at a slight angle, orientated towards the woman. Unlike the woman, the man does not appear to be wearing any clothing on his lower body. Despite these differences, the poses of the two adult figures seem to mirror each other, especially in the way that the woman’s right arm and the man’s left arm both curve outwards from their shoulders in a similar arc to hold the child between them.

When viewed from the side it becomes apparent that the sculpture is not very deep (fig.2). The figures’ knees are drawn up so that their bodies appear to be folding inwards, and their torsos are unnaturally thin. In contrast, the child is chubby and rounded (fig.3). Positioned in the middle of the sculpture and held aloft by its parents, the child is the natural focal point. Discussing the arrangement of the figures, Moore identified how ‘the arms of the mother and the father [intertwine] with the child forming a knot between them, tying the three into a family unity’.1

Moore and the Tate Collection

Alice Correia
March 2014


Henry Moore cited in John Hedgecoe (ed.), Henry Moore, London 1968, p.177.
See Harry Rée, Educator Extraordinary: The Life and Achievement of Henry Morris, London 1973, pp.70–2.
Henry Moore cited in Farewell Night, Welcome Day, television programme, broadcast BBC, 4 January 1963, reprinted in Alan Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershot 2002, p.89.
Henry Moore, letter to Dorothy Miller, 31 January 1951, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.273.
Henry Moore in ‘Henry Moore Talking to David Sylvester’, 7 June 1963, transcript of Third Programme, broadcast BBC Radio, 14 July 1963, Tate Archive TGA 200816, p.13. (An edited version of this interview was published in the Listener, 29 August 1963, pp.305–7.)
Ibid., p.16.
See David Sylvester (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 1: Complete Sculpture 1921–48, 1957, 5th edn, London 1988, pp.14–15.
See Ann Garrould (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 4: Complete Drawings 1950–76, London 2003, p.195.
‘Interviews with Bernard Meadows’, 22 November 1994, p.46, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
David Sylvester, ‘The Evolution of Henry Moore’s Sculpture II’, Burlington Magazine, vol.90, no.544, July 1948, p.190.
‘Interviews with Bernard Meadows’, 4 January 1995, p.56, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
Sylvester 1948, p.193.
Ibid., p.193.
Rudolf Arnheim, ‘The Holes of Henry Moore: On the Function of Space in Sculpture’, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, vol.7, no.1, September 1948, p.33.
Roger Berthoud, The Life of Henry Moore, 1987, revised edn, London 2003, p.183. Manson’s remark was cited by Sainsbury during an interview undertaken by Berthoud in May 1983.
Henry Moore, letter to John Rothenstein, 12 August 1944, Tate Public Records TG 1/6/36.
Minutes of Trustees Meeting, 15 February 1945, Tate Public Records TG 1/3/5.

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