1939, cast 1959
Bronze on a wood base
135 x 255 x 85 mm
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1960
Artist’s copy aside from the edition of 8
Technique and condition
The polished bronze was patinated artificially using chemical solutions that produced a variegated brown and black colour scheme. A very dark brown colour was applied and then rubbed back at high points to reveal the metal surface so that it remains only in the rougher interior and in the crevices. The effect of the dark brown patina is slightly mottled and patchy, which may have been achieved using a concentrated patination solution applied with a stippled brush while the bronze was heated with a blowtorch. The surface appears to have been further patinated using a uniform pale brown transparent patina before a final application of a clear wax. It is likely that the chemical used to create both dark and pale patinas was potassium polysulphide (more commonly known as ‘liver of sulphur’) in different concentrations and with varying levels of heat.
How to citeLyndsey Morgan, 'Technique and Condition', October 2011, in Alice Correia, ‘Reclining Figure 1939, cast 1959 by Henry Moore OM, CH’, catalogue entry, January 2013, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www
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).
The sculpture rests on its wooden base at four points: the right elbow, the hip or buttocks, and the right and left feet. Seen from the front the sculpture appears to lift itself off the base and locate most of its weight on its elbow. The sculpture is attached to the base with three screws that pass through the base and into the sculpture at the elbow, the central ring section, and the left foot. Below the hole the elbow is engraved with the foundry mark ‘Susse Fondeur, Paris’ (fig.5), and the edition number ‘AT 0/8’ is stamped underneath the central ring (fig.6). This means that the sculpture was cast in an edition of eight plus one additional cast for the artist. Moore’s artist’s copies were usually numbered 0.
The origins of Moore’s fascination with the subject of the reclining figure cannot be pinpointed to a single definitive source. For example, in the catalogue to Moore’s 1968 exhibition at the Tate Gallery, images of a reclining Chacmool, a rain spirit of the ancient Toltec-Mayan culture (fig.9), were reproduced alongside Michelangelo’s carvings of allegorical figures in the Medici Chapel in Florence under the title ‘comparative material’. However, the author of the catalogue, the critic David Sylvester, noted that prior to Moore’s trip to Italy in the early 1920s Moore had only made one (male) reclining figure, and that the subject only took hold of Moore’s imagination upon his return. Central to Sylvester’s argument was the importance of Michelangeo’s work, in particular the sculpture Dawn c.1520-34 (fig.10). Sylvester argued that even when Moore’s figures became more abstract they nonetheless had ‘poses which are the perogative of the Mediterranean tradition’.20
Reclining Figure may be understood as a development of Moore’s earlier Reclining Figure 1929 (fig.11) and Recumbent Figure 1938 (Tate N05387; fig.12), which were carved in Brown and Green Hornton stone respectively. Like Reclining Figure both of these earlier sculptures present a female figure lying down with her belly and legs extending to the right of her upright head and shoulders. In all three sculptures the figure rests on her right elbow and her knees are bent, and they each have rounded projecting breasts. In the later bronze work, however, Moore dispensed with the heavy, block-like composition of the 1929 sculpture and the bulbous, globular forms of Recumbent Figure. Instead, the forms of Reclining Figure are thinner and more skeletal.
How to cite
Alice Correia, ‘Reclining Figure 1939, cast 1959 by Henry Moore OM, CH’, catalogue entry, January 2013, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www