Henry Moore OM, CH

Standing Woman


Not on display

Henry Moore OM, CH 1898–1986
Portland stone
Object: 565 × 137 × 116 mm
Lent from a private collection 1994
On long term loan

Catalogue entry


Standing Woman is an early example of Moore’s interest in the female nude, a subject that would dominate his later work. The woman is depicted contrapposto, meaning that her weight is unevenly distributed; her right knee is bent causing her left leg to stand straight and her left hip to be raised slightly. Her right arm hangs down by her side while her left arm is wrapped behind her back and bent at the elbow so that the forearm points up towards her right shoulder. Her head is slightly turned to the left. When viewed from behind, the figure’s left hand appears to be clasping her (now damaged) hair. The visible chisel marks on the right side of her torso and underneath the breasts contrast with the figure’s legs and back, which have been smoothed. This suggests that the sculpture was either left unfinished or that Moore sought the appearance of a sculpture that was not quite completed, judged by conventional standards.
In the catalogue raisonné of Moore’s work, which was published in 1957 and thus in the artist’s lifetime, Standing Woman was dated 1924. Subsequent published literature repeated this information. However, on entering the Tate collection in 1994 its date of creation was revised to 1922. It is unclear why this date was changed and it has subsequently been corrected.
Moore was a student at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London from 1921 to 1924. When Moore carved Standing Woman it is likely that it was a personal project rather than a required piece of coursework for the RCA. Moore had arrived at the college as a mature student, aged twenty-three, having served in the British army during the First World War. When Moore began the course, academic teaching of sculpture focused almost entirely on figuration, and was concerned above all with the styles and techniques of ancient Greek and Roman statuary and Italian Renaissance art. Under the leadership of Professor Francis Derwent Wood (1871–1926), a member of the Royal Academy, students in the RCA sculpture department were taught how to copy classical sculptures by accurately modelling replicas in clay or plaster before using a pointing machine to create a stone copy.1 Students were required to copy historical sculptures, working from plaster casts from the college’s collection, or from originals housed in London’s museums. In this way they would gain training not only in traditional sculpting techniques but also in the styles and subjects of the art of the past.2 Moore made Head of the Virgin after Rosselli 1922–3 (fig.1), a copy of the fifteenth-century Italian artist’s Virgin and Child, housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum, as a piece of coursework.3 Here he attempted to make the stone look like skin; the figure’s cheeks appear to be soft, her lips are plump and flesh-like while the folds of her delicate headscarf look as though they could move in a breeze. Although Head of the Virgin after Rosselli appears to have been made using a traditional pointing machine, Moore said he carved the work freehand, making fake ‘point’ marks on the surface of the marble so as to deceive his tutor.4 As Moore recalled in 1968, ‘no original carving was permitted’.5 Indeed, while Moore recognised the value of attending life-drawing classes, which enhanced his understanding of the three-dimensional figure, he quickly realised that the classical style and sculptural techniques that the RCA promoted were of little interest to him. In order to balance his own interests with the demands of his course Moore later recalled:

Alice Correia
November 2012


A pointing machine is a measuring tool used by sculptors to make like-for-like copies of sculptures. The device is not really a machine but a collection of adjustable rods on an armature which are used to measure specific points on the surface of modelled sculpture. The tool measures the width, height and depth of these points from a chosen position and these dimensions are then used to accurately carve into a block of stone or wood. Each time a point (or measurement) is taken, a small hole is drilled into the corresponding block of stone to indicate the point to which the sculptor should carve. The first point of reference is the highest relief point; on a sculpture of a head this might be a protruding nose. This ensures that the sculptor does not carve away too much material. Carvings made with the use of a pointing machine are often pockmarked, where the point has been drilled fractionally too deep. For an example of a sculpture made with a pointing machine with visible point marks, see Auguste Rodin, The Kiss 1901–4 (Tate N06228).
Ian Dejardin, ‘Catalogue’, in Henry Moore at Dulwich Picture Gallery, exhibition catalogue, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London 2004, p.37.
For Domenico Rosselli, Virgin and Child 1450–98, see http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O137490/virgin-and-child-relief-rosselli-domenico/, accessed 15 November 2012.
See John Hedgecoe (ed.), Henry Moore, London 1968, p.33. Moore’s subversive act when making the work is possibly one of the reasons why the work survived while his other pieces of coursework did not.
Ibid., p.33.
See John and Véra Russell, ‘Conversations with Henry Moore’, Sunday Times, 17 December 1961, reprinted in Alan Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershot 2002, pp.47, 230.
See Hedgecoe 1968, p.33.
Henry Moore quoted in Hedgecoe 1968, p.450.
Henry Moore cited in David Sylvester, ‘Henry Moore talking to David Sylvester’, 7 June 1963, transcript of Third Programme, BBC Radio, broadcast 14 July 1963, Tate Archive TGA 200861, pp.19–20. An edited version of this conversation was published in the Listener, 29 August 1963, pp.305–7.
Wyndham Lewis (ed.), Blast, London 1914. For a digitised version of the magazine see the Modernist Journals Project, http://dl.lib.brown.edu/mjp/render.php?id=1143209523824844&view=mjp_object, accessed 30 July 2012.
Donald Hall, Henry Moore: The Life and Work of a Great Sculptor, London 1966, p.50.
Ibid., p.50.
Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, ‘Vortex’, in Lewis 1914, p.155.
Henry Moore, ‘In Conversation with Huw Wheldon, c.1983’, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.151.
Paul Cézanne, letter to Emile Bernard, 15 April 1904, reprinted in Charles Harrison and Paul Wood (eds.), Art in Theory 1900–2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Oxford 2003, p.33
Sir Michael Sadler was an important influence on Moore and was a prominent early collector of his sculpture. Sadler believed in the necessity of a broad education and the centrality of the arts in everyday life. At Leeds, Sadler was active in the University’s arts, drama and music societies, and he established a programme of public lectures on the arts by invited speakers including Roger Fry. Sadler also gave lectures on artists such as Cézanne, Gauguin and van Gogh, based on works in his own collection. Sadler was at the centre of artistic activities in Leeds and as an educationalist made his collection available as much as possible, frequently lending and showing items to artists and students in the city. In later life Moore acknowledged the importance of Sadler to his artistic education noting that ‘he really knew what was going on in modern art’. See Russell 1961 reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.44. Henry Moore’s sculpture Figure 1931 (Tate T00240) was formerly in Sadler’s collection.
Moore’s first visit to Paris is often listed as occurring in 1923 (see, for example, David Sylvester (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 1: Complete Sculpture 1921–48, 1957, 5th edn, London 1988, p.xxxviii), but more recent scholarship has proved that the trip took place in 1922; see Wilkinson 2002, p.49.
See Wilkinson 2002 p.49–50. Whitsun is the seventh Sunday after Easter, which in 1922 fell on 4 June. The Monday following Whitsun was a Bank Holiday until 1971.
Henry Moore quoted in John Hedgecoe, Henry Moore. My Ideas, Inspiration and Life as an Artist, London 1986, pp.150–1.
See for example John Russell, ‘Introduction’, in Henry Moore: Stone and Wood Carvings, exhibition catalogue, Marlborough Fine Art, London 1961, p.5.
Herbert Read, Henry Moore: A Study of his Life and Work, London 1965, p.53. Among these pairs were Moore’s Standing Woman 1923 and Gaudier-Brzeska’s Red Stone Dancer c.1913 (Tate N04515).
Richard Cork, Wild Thing: Epstein, Gaudier-Brzeska, Gill, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy of Arts, London 2009, pp.31, 74.
Henry Moore, ‘A View on Sculpture’, Architectural Association Journal, May 1930, p.408, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.188.
See Alan Wilkinson, ‘Introduction: “Perfect Symmetry is Death”’, in Wilkinson 2002, p.17.
Andrew Causey, The Drawings of Henry Moore, London 2010, p.24.
Terry Friedman, ‘1921–1929’, in Henry Moore: Early Carvings 1920–1940, exhibition catalogue, Leeds City Art Galleries, Leeds 1982, pp.22–3.
See Ann Garrould (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 1: Complete Drawings 1916–29, London 1996, p.63, no.22–24.45
When not at college, Moore could be found, in his own words, ‘Tate-ing or Museuming’; see Henry Moore, ‘Letter to Jocelyn Horner, Autumn 1921’, as quoted in Friedman 1982, p.21. See also Henry Moore, Henry Moore at the British Museum, London 1981, p.13.
Dejardin 2004, p.161.
There were many examples of ancient Greek caryatids in the British Museum that Moore would have been aware of. See, for example, Caryatid from the Erechtheion c.420 BC, http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/gr/c/caryatid_from_the_erechtheion.aspx, accessed 30 July 2012.
Moore cited in Wilkinson 2002, p.187.
See Gemma Levine, Henry Moore: Wood Sculpture, London 1983, p.54, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.251.
See David Sylvester (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 1: Complete Sculpture 1921–48, London 1957, p.4.
Henry Moore, letter to Michael Tollemache, 7 January 1969, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
A photograph of Moore dated c.1922–3 standing in his sister’s garden next to Dog 1922 and Mother and Child 1922 is reproduced in Jane Beckett and Fiona Russell (eds.), Henry Moore Critical Essays, Aldershot 2003, p.150.

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