Henry Moore OM, CH

Working Model for Unesco Reclining Figure

1957, cast c.1959–61

Not on display

Henry Moore OM, CH 1898–1986
Object: 1440 × 2440 × 1220 mm, 730 kg
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1960

Display caption

This sculpture is related to the UNESCO Reclining Figure at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters shown in the photograph above. That work is carved from travertine marble and is unique. This smaller bronze sculpture is in an edition of six. As with his other public sculptures Moore sought to avoid narrative or overt rhetoric. The universal significance attributed to Moore’s sculpture made it particularly appropriate for a global organisation such as UNESCO.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry


Working Model for Unesco Reclining Figure 1957 is a bronze sculpture of a reclining figure made up of bridge-like forms, holes and arched spaces, which, despite their abstract appearance, have been composed in a way that allows certain features to be recognised as distinct body parts. Indeed, the figure can be seen to be propped up on its left elbow and appears to lie in a twisted position with its legs extending to the side while its bent knees point towards the front. The upright torso and head of the figure face the bulky right leg, which projects up at an angle to the same height as the shoulders, creating a compact horizontal composition (fig.1). The sculpture is mounted on a copper clad wooden base designed by the artist. According to notes held at Tate, the base, which is lightly textured with indentations, ‘has always been regarded as an integral part of the work’.1

The face of the sculpture has a dappled appearance and features two unevenly positioned eye sockets (fig.2). Two small irregularly shaped circular depressions on the front of the face may be regarded as nostrils, despite the absence of a nose. Underneath these is a very lightly incised line, suggestive of a mouth. The rear of the head has been marked with deep gouges and striations to evoke hair, contrasting with the much smoother neck. In comparison to the rest of the body the head and neck appear disproportionately small, and are notable for the way in which they lean slightly backwards, giving the impression that the figure is looking up and over the ridge formed by the right leg.

The Unesco commission

From plaster to bronze

Contexts and interpretations

Henry Moore and the Tate collection

Alice Correia
December 2013


Alexander Dunluce, memo to the Director, 5 July 1990, Tate Conservation File, Henry Moore, T00390.
It is not surprising that Moore was selected for the commission. The building was being designed by Marcel Breuer, who Moore had known since the 1930s when they both lived in Hampstead, and Moore’s long-time supporter, the art critic Herbert Read, was a member of the committee advising on art commissions. Unesco’s first Director General, Julian Huxley, was also a close friend of Moore’s. In August 1956 Moore wrote to Read: ‘It’s not going to be an easy commission. So far what ideas have come (some of them) might work out as sculpture purely for myself, but no one idea has turned up to concentrate on yet ... I have given up all my other work ... [but] the size and importance of the commission is such that I can’t expect even the preliminary stages to be quick.’ Henry Moore, letter to Herbert Read, 7 August 1956, cited in Roger Berthoud, The Life of Henry Moore, 1987, 2nd edn, London 2003, pp.305–6.
Henry Moore, letter to A. Manuelides, 25 September 1956, Henry Moore Foundation Archive, cited in Margaret Garlake, ‘Moore’s Eclecticism: Difference, Aesthetic Identity and Community in the Architectural Commissions 1938–58’, in Jane Beckett and Fiona Russell (eds.), Henry Moore: Critical Essays, Aldershot 2003, p.188.
Herbert Read, ‘Introduction’, in Alan Bowness (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 3: Sculpture and Drawings 1955–64, 1965, revised edn, London 1986, p.6.
Henry Moore cited in Edouard Roditi, Dialogues on Art, London 1960, pp.179–88, reprinted in Alan Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershot 2002, p.286.
See W.J. Strachan, ‘Henry Moore’s UNESCO Statue’, Studio, vol.156, no.789, December 1958, p.171. For another of Moore’s preparatory drawings for the Unesco commission see http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=733178&partId=1&searchText=henry+moore&page=1, accessed 18 December 2013.
Henry Moore, letter to Alan Wurtzburger, 6 February 1959, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
See Berthoud 2003, p.306.
Garlake 2003, p.190.
Henry Moore cited in Donald Hall, ‘Henry Moore: An Interview by Donald Hall’, Horizon, November 1960, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.226.
Henry Moore cited in John Hedgecoe (ed.), Henry Moore, London 1968, p.300.
Strachan 1958, p.175.
Herbert Read, Henry Moore: A Study of his Life and Work, London 1965, p.218.
Strachan 1958, p.173. It is not known whether this was the hand-made plaster sculpture or a plaster cast of it.
Henry Moore, letter to Andrew Ritchie, 2 January 1959, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
For a video explaining the lost wax process, see http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/s/sculpture-techniques/, accessed 23 January 2014.
Henry Moore, ‘A Sculptor Speaks’, Listener, 18 August 1937, pp.338–40, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.195.
Christa Lichtenstern, Henry Moore: Work-Theory-Impact, London 2008, p.414.
Erich Neumann, The Archetypal World of Henry Moore, London 1959, p.31.
Ibid., pp.31–2.
Ibid., pp.41–2
Ibid., p.129, cited in Herbert Read, ‘Introduction’, 1965, in Bowness 1986, p.7.
Read 1965, in Bowness 1986, p.7.
Christopher Pearson, ‘Hepworth, Moore and the United Nations: Modern Art and the Ideology of Post-War Internationalism’, Sculpture Journal, no.6, 2001, p.89.
Ibid., p.94.
J.E. Burchard, ‘Unesco House Appraised’, Architectural Record, no.127, May 1960, p.155, cited in ibid., p.95.
Ibid., p.95.
Ibid., p.97.
See Berthoud 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.
Henry Moore, letter to Alan Wurtzburger, 16 June 1959, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
Henry Moore, letter to John Rothenstein, 6 October 1960, Tate Archive TGA 8726/3/11.
Norman Reid, letter to Henry Moore, 20 February 1961, Tate Public Records TG 4/2/742/2.
Henry Moore, letter to Norman Reid, 1 March 1961, Tate Public Records TG 4/2/742/2.
Jane Lascelles, letter to Henry Moore, 1 June 1961, Tate Public Records TG/20/6/1.
These accumulated figures are based on those listed in a memo in the exhibition’s records. See Tate Public Records TG 92/344/2.
Bowness 1986, no.415, p.31.

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