Henry Moore OM, CH

Maquette for Family Group


Henry Moore OM, CH 1898–1986
Object: 178 × 102 × 60 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 is one of at least fourteen small models made by Henry Moore in the mid-1940s, each of which presents a family group in different poses and configurations. This sculpture presents a seated mother, a standing father, and two children as an embracing and supportive family unit (fig.1). The mother sits on a low rectangular stool while the father stands tall at a right angle to her, with his right hand on her left shoulder. A larger, probably older, child stands opposite the mother and rests its arms on her knees. The father’s left hand rests on this child’s back while the smaller child stands on the mother’s right thigh, and is supported by her as it reaches upwards towards the father. Moore has used the arms of each figure to establish a sense of union, exemplified by the father’s arms, which envelop the whole group.
The origins of this sculpture lie in the mid-1930s when the German architect Walter Gropius proposed to Moore that he make a large-scale sculpture for a school in Impington, near Cambridge, which was designed by Gropius and Maxwell Fry in 1935–6 and opened in 1939. The college was designed to be a flexible space that catered for all the family, acting as the focal point for the entire community.1 Moore later recalled discussing the commission with Henry Morris, Chief Education Officer for Cambridgeshire County Council:
we talked and discussed it, and I think from that time dates my idea for the family as a subject for sculpture. Instead of just building a school, he was going to make a centre for the whole life of the surrounding villages, and we hit upon this idea of the family being the unit that we were aiming at.2
In 1951 Moore wrote that,
later the war came and I heard no more about it until, about 1944, Henry Morris told me that he now thought he could get enough money together for the sculpture if I would still like to think of doing it. I said yes, because the idea right from the start had appealed to me and I began drawings in note book form of family groups. From these note book drawings I made a number of small maquettes, a dozen or more.3

Moore and the Tate Collection

Alice Correia
March 2014


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 3: Complete Drawings 1940–49, Much Hadham 2001, p.195, no.43.105.
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, Henry Moore Foundation Archive, p.56.
‘Interviews with Bernard Meadows’, 22 November 1994, Henry Moore Foundation Archive, p.46.
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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