Henry Moore OM, CH

Mother and Child

1953, cast c.1954

Not on display

Henry Moore OM, CH 1898–1986
Bronze on wooden base
Object: 530 × 270 × 345 mm, 16 kg
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1960

Display caption

Moore treated the subject of mother and child repeatedly. This sculpture is one of a group of small bronzes made by the artist during the early 1950s that focus specifically on the relationship between mother and child. During the Second World War Moore's interpretation of the theme emphasised the mother's nurturing role, a response to the human suffering of war. He continued to explore this aspect of the subject in the 1950s. Here he distorts the figures to suggest the submission of the mother to the aggressive needs of the child as it tries to suckle from her breast.

Gallery label, February 2010

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Catalogue entry


This small bronze sculpture depicts a thin, angular woman seated on a bench with a smaller serpentine figure who rises up from her left hip. This figure, which the title indicates is a child, lunges forward with a gasping mouth towards the woman’s almost spherical breast, but appears to be held back by the woman’s left hand, which is clasped tightly around the child’s long neck. This sense of struggle, coupled with the sharp, pointed features of both figures, transforms the traditional subject of the mother and child from one of nurture and protection to one characterised by violence and attack.
The mother sits on the two-legged bench with her legs pressed closely together and her feet planted firmly on the base (fig.1). Her right thigh connects to her thin, upright torso, which appears twisted to face the child. A circular depression on the right side of her chest is suggestive of an inverted or depleted breast, in contrast to her left breast, which is round and plump. The woman only has one short, tubular arm, which extends from the left side of her body towards the child. Her shoulders are wider than her torso and connect to a thin, elongated head marked by a line of four pyramidal points directed at the child. The sense of menace evoked by these sharp, teeth-like forms is heightened by four more raised ridges on the right side of her face.

The child, which has no recognisably human features, is conjoined to the mother’s left hip, from which its thin body rises to a hollow, wheel-like form, which may represent an empty stomach. From here the child’s long, tubular neck extends up to a schematic bird-like head with a pointed crest and an open beak-like mouth, which thrusts towards the mother’s breast as though to feed (fig.2). Only the mother’s tight grip around the child’s neck appears to stop the child from biting her. The child’s large circular eyes, positioned on either side of its head, intensify the impression that it is straining, either from its compulsion to feed, or from the pain exerted by the mother’s stranglehold.

Origins and facture

Intention and interpretation

Henry Moore and the Tate collection

Alice Correia
November 2013


In 1960 Moore explained why he built the furnace in his garden: ‘at one period of my career I thought I ought to know how bronze casting was done, and I did it myself at the bottom of the garden, along with my two assistants. We built a foundry in miniature of our own, and throughout one year I cast some eight or ten things into bronze’. See Donald Hall, ‘Henry Moore: An Interview by Donald Hall’, Horizon, November 1960, reprinted in Alan Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershot 2002, p.232.
Bernard Meadows cited in Wilkinson 2002, p.235, note 27.
Mary Moore, ‘Mother and Child’, in Gregor Muir (ed.), Henry Moore: Ideas for Sculpture, exhibition catalogue, Hauser & Wirth, London 2010, p.150.
Wire was used to make the armatures of other small sculptures at this time, such as Maquette for Standing Figure 1950 (Tate T06827).
Henry Moore, ‘Henry Moore Talks About his Life as a Sculptor’, Listener, 24 January 1974, p.105.
Alan Wilkinson, The Drawings of Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1977, p.44.
Herbert Read, Henry Moore: A Study of his Life and Work, London 1965, pp.174, 176.
Will Grohmann, The Art of Henry Moore, London 1960, p.143.
Read 1965, p.176.
Lyndsey Stonebridge, ‘A Love of Beginnings: Henry Moore and Psychoanalysis’, in Chris Stephens (ed.), Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2010, p.41.
David Cohen, ‘Maquette for Mother and Child 1952’, in David Mitchinson (ed.), Celebrating Moore: Works from the Collection of the Henry Moore Foundation, London 2006, p.233.
Erich Neumann, The Archetypal World of Henry Moore, London 1959, p.117.
See Peter Webb, The Erotic Arts, London 1983, pp.378–9, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.115.
Moore had represented the subject before with Suckling Child 1930 (Pallant House Gallery, Chichester).
For Titian’s The Virgin Suckling the Infant Christ c.1565–75 see http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/titian-the-virgin-suckling-the-infant-christ, accessed 9 December 2013. For Aimé-Jules Dalou’s Peasant Woman Nursing a Baby 1873 see http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O34921/peasant-woman-nursing-a-baby-figure-group-aime-jules-dalou/, accessed 9 December 2013.
Wilkinson 1977, p.44.
Barbara Braun, Pre-Columbian Art and the Post-Columbian World: Ancient American Sources of Modern Art, New York 2000, p.95.
Ibid., p.129.
Cohen 2006, p.235.
Herbert Read, ‘New Aspects of British Sculpture’, in Exhibition of Works by Sutherland, Wadsworth, Adams, Armitage, Butler, Chadwick, Clarke, Meadows, Moore, Paolozzi, Turnbull. Organised by the British Council for the XXVI Biennale, Venice, exhibition catalogue, British Pavilion, Venice Biennale, Venice 1952.
See Jennifer Powell, ‘A Coherent, National “School” of Sculpture? Constructing Post-War New British Sculpture through Exhibition Practices’, Sculpture Journal, vol.21, no.2, 2012, pp.37–50.
John Russell, ‘Introduction’, in Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Art Center in La Jolla, La Jolla 1963, unpaginated.
See Roger Berthoud, The Life of Henry Moore, 1987, revised edn, London 2003, p.183.
Tate cannot acquire works of art by artists while they are serving as trustees.
Minutes of Meeting of the Trustees of the Tate Gallery, 16 May 1957, Tate Public Records TG 4/2/742/2.
Jane Lascelles, letter to Henry Moore, 1 June 1961, Tate Public Records TG/20/6/1.
Roger Berthoud, ‘Henry Moore: Before These Works I Sit and Ponder’, Times, 19 July 1978, p.6.
These accumulated figures are based on those listed in a memo in the exhibition’s records. See Tate Public Records TG 92/344/2.

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