Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity

ISBN 978-1-84976-391-2

Henry Moore OM, CH Maquette for Family Group 1943, cast 1944–5

This maquette is one of a series of small sculptures made by Moore in the mid-1940s that presents a family group. Originally designed as a model for a large-scale sculpture for a school in Cambridgeshire, this composition was eventually enlarged and carved in stone, and was unveiled in the new town of Harlow in 1956.
Henry Moore OM, CH 1898–1986
Maquette for Family Group
1944, cast 1944–5
135 x 115 x 65 mm
Inscribed ‘Moore’ on back of base
Purchased from the artist through the Berkeley Galleries (Knapping Fund) 1945
In an edition of 7 plus 1 artist’s copy


Maquette for Family Group is one of at least fourteen small models made by Henry Moore in the mid-1940s, each of which presents a family group in different poses and configurations. This sculpture presents a seated mother and father and one small child positioned on the mother’s lap (fig.1). It was subsequently used as the template for the life-size Family Group 1954–5, carved in Hadene stone, which was commissioned for the new town of Harlow.
Henry Moore 'Maquette for Family Group' 1944, cast 1944–5
Henry Moore
Maquette for Family Group 1944, cast 1944–5
Tate N05604
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Detail of blanket in Maquette for Family Group 1944, cast 1944–5,
Tate N05604
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved

The sculpture presents the family group seated on a single bench positioned on a shallow rectangular base. The mother sits to the right of the father, who is positioned slightly behind her with his right arm wrapped around her back so that his hand rests on her right shoulder. A small child sits on the mother’s left thigh, with its back to the father. The adults appear to be nude, but have a blanket covering their lap, which is marked with incised horizontal lines (fig.2). Moore has presented the fabric as a single undulating form that serves to outline the curves and recesses of their thighs and knees.
The origins of this sculpture lie in the mid-1930s, when the German architect Walter Gropius proposed to Moore that he make a large-scale sculpture for a school in Impington, near Cambridge, which was designed by Gropius and Maxwell Fry in 1935–6 and opened in 1939. The college was designed to be a flexible space that catered for all the family, acting as the focal point for the entire community.1 Moore later recalled discussing the commission with Henry Morris, Chief Education Officer for Cambridgeshire County Council:
we talked and discussed it, and I think from that time dates my idea for the family as a subject for sculpture. Instead of just building a school, he was going to make a centre for the whole life of the surrounding villages, and we hit upon this idea of the family being the unit that we were aiming at.2
In 1951 Moore wrote that,
later the war came and I heard no more about it until, about 1944, Henry Morris told me that he now thought he could get enough money together for the sculpture if I would still like to think of doing it. I said yes, because the idea right from the start had appealed to me and I began drawings in note book form of family groups. From these note book drawings I made a number of small maquettes, a dozen or more.3
Henry Moore 'Family Groups: Ideas for Sculpture' 1944
Henry Moore
Family Groups: Ideas for Sculpture 1944
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Henry Moore Foundation Archive
Moore filled nearly two sketchbooks with drawings presenting family groups in different poses. Some present a mother, father and two children of different ages, while others present the parents with only one child. Moore later described drawing as a way not only of generating ideas, but also of ‘sorting them out’.4 By recording his ideas on paper, Moore was able to review, select and edit the compositions that he felt were worth developing into small clay maquettes. The sketch at the top of the drawing titled Family Groups: Ideas for Sculpture 1944 (fig.3) can be identified as the preparatory sketch for this particular maquette, and demonstrates how Moore had fully conceived the arrangement of the figures prior to executing the composition in three-dimensions. The positions of all three figures and the undulating blanket are faithfully copied in the final sculpture. In 1963, when Moore was asked by the critic David Sylvester which was the last important sculpture to have been developed from drawings, Moore replied, ‘I think the Family Group ones probably. The Family Group ideas were all generated by drawings’.5
The original three dimensional model for this sculpture was made in clay. This model was then used to make a mould of the maquette, which was filled with molten bronze to create the final solid sculpture. In addition to this maquette, Moore made at least thirteen other clay models of family groups.6 Ten of these models were cast in bronze editions, three of which are held in the Tate collection (see also Tate N05605–N05606).
Maquette for Family Group was cast at the Art Bronze Foundry, London, in an edition of seven plus one artist’s copy. Notes made by Moore for the owner of the foundry, dated ‘March 28’, identify three Family Group maquettes for casting, along with five maquettes for Moore’s Madonna and Child, which date from 1943.7 The inclusion of Maquette for Family Group 1945 (Tate N05606) as the seventh sculpture on this list suggests that Moore made these casting notes in 1945. This Maquette for Family Group is number six on this list, and a small sketch of the work is annotated with the phrase ‘Family Group (6” high) Blanket across knees of both man + woman – child sat on woman’s knee’. The notes indicate that seven bronze examples were wanted, and that two examples of this particular maquette had been cast and delivered to an unnamed gallery by 28 March. It is likely that the gallery mentioned on the note was the Berkeley Galleries, London, where Moore had an exhibition in March–April 1945.
In an article published in the Burlington Magazine in July 1948, Sylvester, who had worked as Moore’s personal assistant in 1945, noted that ‘Moore had always made maquettes for his larger sculptures, but it was not until he cast about half-a-dozen of the ten or so clay studies for the Northampton Madonna that he began to make bronzes of them’.8 The bronze maquettes of family groups were produced to be sold privately and were probably cast to provide an income in case the Impington commission failed to materialise. Moore’s decision to make multiple bronze casts drastically altered the type of work he was able to produce, and provided more opportunities to sell his work. Bernard Meadows, who was Moore’s studio assistant at the time, later recalled that ‘most of these little family groups were sold for £35 (having cost about £12 to cast) so he [was] making just over £20 per sculpture’.9
In 1994 Meadows recalled that after the newly cast bronze maquettes were returned to Moore from the foundry they required a lot of finishing work:
He [Moore] wasn’t very satisfied with Gaskin’s casts [Charles Gaskin was the owner of the Art Bronze Foundry]. They were pretty rough, they were pretty bad and some of them, I said to him, ‘well you ought not accept that’. But he went ahead, he was half worried about upsetting any of these foundry chaps because where would he get them cast here in Britain? ... they were in such a state that one had to get them back to some semblance of acceptability ... the bronzes had to be worked on and then they had to go back to the foundry to be patinated.10

Moore and the Tate Collection

This sculpture was one of three bronze family group maquettes bought by Tate in 1945 and is thus one of the earliest works by Moore to have been purchased for the Tate collection. The purchase of these works illustrated the desire of the director Sir John Rothenstein to represent Moore’s work in the collection. In contrast, Rothenstein’s predecessor, J.B. Manson, had previously told the Tate trustee Robert Sainsbury ‘over my dead body will Henry Moore ever enter the Tate’.11 Rothenstein’s appointment thus signalled a shift in the direction of Tate’s ambitions. One of his first actions as director had been to accept the donation from the Contemporary Art Society of Moore’s Recumbent Figure 1938 (Tate N05387). Then in 1941 Rothenstein encouraged the appointment of Moore to Tate’s Board of Trustees.
In 1944 Rothenstein wrote to Moore asking whether Tate could commission a large carving based on one of his Madonna and Child maquettes (see Tate N05602). Moore politely turned down the suggestion, writing ‘its now more than a year since these little figure studies were done, + that’s whats [sic] making me hesitate now over your suggestion – for it would mean putting my mind back in working to a year ago’.12 Instead, Moore suggested that the Tate might be interested in some of the studies for a ‘Family Group’ he had recently begun working on. This proposal was accepted and Tate bought four maquettes for the Madonna and Child and three maquettes for the Family Group.
The three maquettes for Family Group were purchased from the artist through the Berkeley Galleries in early 1945 with money from the Knapping Fund.13 The Knapping Fund was the residuary estate of Miss Helen Knapping bequeathed to the Trustees of the National Gallery in 1935 to be spent on work by living or recently deceased British artists. A fraction of this money was allocated to the Tate by the National Gallery, as Tate’s purchasing power continued to rely on charitable donations and private patronage until well after the Second World War.

Harlow Family Group 1954–5

Family Group 1954–5, sited in its original position, Old Harlow, c.1968
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved
Photo: John Hedgecoe
As Moore suspected, Henry Morris was unable to secure financial backing and institutional support for the Impington commission. However, following the popular success of Family Group 1949 (Tate N06004), which was made for the Barclay School in Cambridgeshire, in 1954 the Harlow Arts Trust commissioned Moore to create a sculpture for Harlow. Moore lived just a few miles from Harlow, and saw it develop from a rural village to an urban new town, populated by young families. A family group was deemed to be an appropriate subject, and the small maquette was selected and carved in an enlarged size in Hadene stone. Upon its unveiling in May 1956 (fig.4), an unnamed journalist writing for the Times recorded that ‘within an hour of its unveiling, the “Family” had already entered into the life of Harlow. Small boys were getting up on the pedestal, clambering over the woman, taking occupation of the empty place in the man’s lap. At one moment, indeed, the family of three had expanded to one of seven’.14

Alice Correia
March 2014

This catalogue entry was compiled from research undertaken by Robert Sutton, Collaborative Doctoral Award student (University of York and Tate).


See Harry Rée, Educator Extraordinary: The Life and Achievement of Henry Morris, London 1973, pp.70–2.
Henry Moore cited in Farewell Night, Welcome Day, television programme, broadcast BBC, 4 January 1963, reprinted in Alan Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershot 2002, p.89.
Henry Moore, letter to Dorothy Miller, 31 January 1951, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.273.
Henry Moore in ‘Henry Moore Talking to David Sylvester’, 7 June 1963, transcript of Third Programme, broadcast BBC Radio, 14 July 1963, Tate Archive TGA 200816, p.13. (An edited version of this interview was published in the Listener, 29 August 1963, pp.305–7.)
Ibid., p.16.
See David Sylvester (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 1: Complete Sculpture 1921–48, 1957, 5th edn, London 1988, pp.14–15.
See Ann Garrould (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 3: Complete Drawings 1940–49, Much Hadham 2001, p.195, no.43.105.
David Sylvester, ‘The Evolution of Henry Moore’s Sculpture II’, Burlington Magazine, vol.90, no.544, July 1948, p.190.
‘Interviews with Bernard Meadows’, 4 January 1995, Henry Moore Foundation Archive, p.56.
‘Interviews with Bernard Meadows’, 22 November 1994, Henry Moore Foundation Archive, p.46.
Roger Berthoud, The Life of Henry Moore, 1987, revised edn, London 2003, p.183. Manson’s remark was cited by Sainsbury during an interview undertaken by Berthoud in May 1983.
Henry Moore, letter to John Rothenstein, 12 August 1944, Tate Public Records TG 1/6/36.
Minutes of Trustees Meeting, 15 February 1945, Tate Public Record TG 1/3/5.
Anon., ‘Mr. Moore’s “Family Group”’, Times, 18 May 1956, p.3.

How to cite

Alice Correia, ‘Maquette for Family Group 1944, cast 1944–5 by Henry Moore OM, CH’, catalogue entry, March 2014, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/henry-moore/henry-moore-om-ch-maquette-for-family-group-r1147453, accessed 20 May 2022.