Henry Moore OM, CH

Reclining Figure

1939, cast 1959

Not on display

Henry Moore OM, CH 1898–1986
Bronze on wooden base
Object: 137 × 254 × 86 mm
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1960

Display caption

In the late 1930s Moore made six small Reclining Figures in lead. This is one of eight bronze casts after one of those lead originals. These sculptures relate to drawings which show that their shapes were suggested by bone or even rock formations. The relationship between body and land was of particular interest to Moore at this time since he had just completed a large 'Recumbent Figure' in green Hornton stone for the architect Serge Chermayeff's garden at Halland in Sussex. Stone could be carved to suggest cavities created by weathering; however, the medium of lead produced a different emphasis. The lead figures remind the viewer of the angular, skeletal framework underlying the human body.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry


This is a sculpture of a female reclining figure made in bronze. The head and shoulders of the figure form a vertical axis on the left that extends into the body and legs on a horizontal axis. The figure is made up of linear rods and armatures more akin to the form of a skeleton than to a fleshy, naturalistic human body.
The head comprises a thin, flat, rounded shape with a U-shaped groove cut diagonally into its upper edge (fig.1). It is attached to a horizontal, almost-tubular bar denoting the shoulders, which extend downwards on one side to form the right arm. The upper section of the bar has been flattened, creating a wide, thin section which leads to a form which could be a pointed elbow or a spinal column. The left shoulder curves downwards and creates the top edge of an elongated semi-cylindrical form. This elongated curved shape merges the torso, hips and upper legs and is the largest single section of the sculpture.

When seen from the front the semi-cylindrical form creates a concave hollow emphasised by the presence of a hole that pierces the form in what can be understood to be abdomen region (fig.2). The tubular shape of the body is enhanced by the addition of a ring or disk at the hip area that circles the semi-cylindrical form linking its two edges. Towards the right of the sculpture the two edges of the tubular body morph into legs. Here the concave form that links the two legs is reminiscent of a long skirt that nonetheless allows for the discernment of individual limbs. The left thigh is slightly higher and longer than the left so that the legs run parallel to each other. The legs are bent at the knee where they point downwards to the base. When removed from its base the footprint of the sculpture as a whole can be seen to follow a crescent-shaped curve; the right shoulder and right leg are positioned on the frontal plane while the central abdomen curves backwards (fig.3).

Alice Correia
January 2013


See David Sylvester (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 1: Complete Sculpture 1921–48, London1957, revised edn, London 1988, p.12, no.208, reproduced p.119.
Henry Moore, letter to Martin Butlin, 13 April 1961, Tate Artist Catalogue File, Henry Moore, A23942.
Henry Moore cited in Donald Carroll, The Donald Carroll Interviews, London 1973, p.42, reprinted in Alan Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershot 2002, p.235.
Henry Moore, letter to Arthur Sale, 30 April 1939, Imperial War Museum Archive, IMW/ART/16597/1. For a transcript of the letter see http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/19443, accessed 11 June 2013.
[Judith Collins], ‘Henry Moore: Reclining Figure 1939’, The Tate Gallery 1984–86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982–84, London 1988, p.539.
Ibid., pp.539–40.
Henry Moore cited in Donald Hall, ‘Henry Moore: An Interview by Donald Hall’, Horizon, November 1960, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.232.
[Collins] 1988, p.539.
Ibid., p.540.
Mary Moore, ‘Reclining Figure 1939’, in Gregor Muir (ed.), Henry Moore: Ideas for Sculpture, exhibition catalogue, Hauser & Wirth, London 2010, p.137.
Henry Moore, letter to Herbert Read, 9 October 1939, Herbert Read Papers, University of Victoria. A copy of this letter is held in The Henry Moore Foundation Archive. According to the catalogue for the autumn 1939 group exhibition at the Leicester Galleries Moore exhibited a lead stringed figure and a coloured chalk drawing. See Autumn Exhibitions: Selected Paintings, Drawings and Pottery Lent by the Contemporary Art Society. Paintings and Sculpture for Sale by Modern British Artists, exhibition catalogue, Leicester Galleries, London 1939, no.49 and no.137 respectively.
Michel Remy, Surrealism in Britain, Aldershot 1999, p.180.
Gordon Onslow Ford cited in Henry J. Seldis, Henry Moore in America, New York 1973, p.52.
See ibid., p.53. Seldis’s account follows an extended quote by Onslow Ford and it is likely that this information was conveyed to him by Onslow Ford in the early 1970s.
For example, Moore borrowed a lead Reclining Figure from its owner Peter Gregory in 1958 to cast an edition in bronze. See Henry Moore, letter to H.R. Fisher, 18 July 1958, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
Seldis 1973, p.53.
See Will Grohmann, The Art of Henry Moore, London 1960, pp.46–8.
David Sylvester, Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1968, pp.104–5.
Henry Moore cited in J.D. Morse, ‘Henry Moore Comes to America’, Magazine of Art, vol.40, no.3, March 1947, pp.97–101, reprinted in Philip James (ed.), Henry Moore on Sculpture, London 1966, p.264.
Sylvester 1968, p.7.
Henry Moore cited in John Russell, Henry Moore, 1968, revised edn, London 1973, p.48.
Giovanni Carandente, ‘Reclining Figure 1931’, in David Mitchinson (ed.), Celebrating Moore: Works from the Collection of the Henry Moore Foundation, London 2006, p.126.
Henry Moore cited in Hall 1960, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.233.
Ibid, p.233.
Herbert Read, Henry Moore: A Study of his Life and Work, London 1965, p.125.
Sylvester 1968, p.71.
Henry Moore, ‘Interview with Elizabeth Blunt’, Kaleidoscope, BBC Radio 4, 9 April 1973, transcript reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.167.
See Christa Lichtenstern, Henry Moore: Work-Theory-Impact, London 2008, p.49.
Minotaure, no.1, 1933, pp.36–7.
Alan Wilkinson, The Drawings of Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1977, p.87.
Ann Garrould (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 2: Complete Drawings 1930–39, London 1998, p.233.
This work is Reclining Figure 1939 (private collection). See Chris Stephens (ed.), Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2010, reproduced p.157.
Henry Moore cited in John and Vera Russell, ‘Conversations with Henry Moore’, Sunday Times, 24 December 1961, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.152.
George Wingfield Digby, Meaning and Symbol in Three Modern Artists: Henry Moore,Edvard Munch, Paul Nash, London 1955, p.77.
Ibid., p.87.
Erich Neumann, The Archetypal World of Henry Moore, London 1959, p.81.
Ibid., p.82.
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 Archive TG/4/2/742/2.
Jane Lascelles, letter to Henry Moore, 1 June 1961, Tate Archive TG/20/6/1.

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