Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity

ISBN 978-1-84976-391-2

Henry Moore Letter to Martin Butlin 13 April 1961

In 1960 the Friends of the Tate Gallery acquired six sculptures by Henry Moore, which were presented to the gallery in December 1960. In this letter dated 13 April 1961 Moore responds to a request made by Martin Butlin, Assistant Keeper of the Tate’s collection, for information regarding each of the sculptures. This letter is of particular interest because Moore rarely made direct statements about individual works, preferring instead to discuss his ideas about sculpture more generally. In addition to the six sculptures – Composition 1932 (Tate T00385); Stringed Figure 1938/60 (Tate T00386); Reclining Figure 1939 (Tate T00387); Helmet Head No.1 1950 (Tate T00388); Mother and Child 1953 (Tate T00389); and Working Model for Unesco Reclining Figure 1957 (Tate T00390) – Moore also mentions Two-Piece Reclining Figure No.2 1960 (Tate T00395), which was purchased by Tate in 1960.


Much Hadham 66                              HOGLANDS,
                                          PERRY GREEN,
                                          MUCH HADHAM,
[Typescript with handwritten corrections:]
13th April 1961.
Dear Mr. Butlin,
 I am sorry not to have answered your letter of ages ago, of which your letter of 4th April was sent to remind me. Here are the answers to your questions.
 This is the African Wonderstone, formerly in the collection of Michael Ventris, – my wife bought it back from him about ten years ago. Yes, it was shown at the Leicester Galleries in 1933 (catalogue number 7 or 8). It was exhibited at the Musée Rodin, JEUNESSE des MAITRES du XX SIECLE, October 1959.
 The original idea of this sculpture is plate no.91 B, third edition, Lund Humphries, and was in wood. It was lost in Poland in the early part of the war, and has never been traced. However I came across the preliminary sketch for the sculpture, (a small clay maquette), in my studio two years ago, and because I liked the original and even thought the maquette was better than the wooden sculpture, I remade this sculpture in plaster, and had it cast into bronze in 1960, the idea is identical with the maquette, and so the date is 1938. Edition of 10.
 Yes it is the Gordon Onslow Ford, and the original was in lead, but as with many others I made in lead around that time, I have since made a bronze edition, because lead is a very vulnerable material and can be scratched even by a finger nail. There is an edition of eight. end of p.1]
HELMET HEAD 1950. (No.1.)
 Please note this will be No.1 HELMET HEAD not No.2 as listed in your letter because I made a mistake in the number. Both numbers 1 and 2 were done at the same time and in my opinion are pretty equal. Both are having an edition of 9 from the original lead. Your cast is number 2. It has not been exhibited but the lead original was exhibited in America at the Curt Valentin Gallery. I first made a sculpture of this Internal/ External form idea in 1940, (THE HELMET, the original lead belonging to Roland Penrose) and I returned to the idea in these two HELMET HEADS 1950, and UPRIGHT EXTERNAL FORM, (wooden version, in the Albright Art Gallery) and then again, in 1960 there is a HELMET HEAD NO.3 using a machine-like interior piece, – this was exhibited at the Whitechapel exhibition.
 Yes, this is No.41 in volume 11 and was in the Whitechapel exhibition. It was not exhibited at the Leicester Galleries in 1955. Originally there was an edition of 7, but a special cast has been newly made for the Tate.
RECLINING FIGURE 1957, Bronze (Working Model for the UNESCO Stone Sculpture 1957–58.)
 Yes this sculpture was first exhibited at the Marlborough Gallery, summer 1959, for the first time. Your cast was not the one exhibited at the Marlborough or at Essen. There is an edition of 6 (plus the artist’s copy.) Originally the edition was 5 but I wrote to all the owners and got permission to make an extra cast for the Tate.
 Your cast was not at Whitechapel. The sculpture was not shown before the Whitechapel exhibition. There is an edition of 7.
 As the Tate was the last on the list for this two-piece sculpture, your cast is not yet ready, but the bronze foundry hope to have it finished in the next two or three months.
 I am enclosing some notes I wrote a month or two ago about the No.1. Two-Piece Reclining Figure, (which was acquired by the Lehmbruck Museum in Germany.) I have slightly amended the notes to refer to both the 1959 and 1960 figures as both figures are very much complementary to each other.
 If any parts of the notes are at all useful for you to quote, please do so, and of course, you can quote anything from any of my previous notes about sculpture.
 Yours sincerely
                 Henry Moore
 In each case the edition number excludes the artist’s copy, that is, the edition number is the number which was available for sale.

How to cite

Henry Moore, Letter to Martin Butlin, 13 April 1961, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/henry-moore/henry-moore-letter-to-martin-butlin-r1145472, accessed 20 February 2019.