314 x 278 x 30 mm
Lent from a private collection 1994
Technique and condition
Both the right and bottom edges are cleanly sawn at right angles but rough planes of slate protrude on the top and left, and here Moore has marked out the square with deeply chiselled incised borders (fig.1). The hair is executed as a single carved line with a v-shaped cross-section, and the perimeter of the face has been deeply carved with vertical incisions of the chisel. The hollows of the cheeks are roughly marked out using a 4 mm wide chisel, whereas much finer chisel marks are visible on the eyelids (fig.2). The surfaces of the chin, lips, nose and forehead are sanded to a smooth finish.
Close examination of the surface reveals traces of a pale brown, slightly fibrous deposit, especially in the crevices around the edges of the relief (fig.3). It is not clear what this might be. Traces of gold and red pigment are also clearly visible on two of the edges (fig.4) and to a lesser extent on the front surface. When the work was loaned to Tate in 1994, Judith Collins, then Assistant Keeper of the Modern Collection, annotated a reproduction of this work with the text: ‘Ptd edge by mother: removed by AG’..1 ‘AG’ can be identified as Anne Garrould, Moore’s niece and the daughter of the work’s original owner, Moore’s sister Mary. The note thus indicates that the paint had been added by Moore’s sister, but was later removed.
The relief is intended for vertical display, although there are no fixings. When exhibited in Henry Moore: Stone and Wood Carvings at Marlborough Fine Art in London in 1961 it was secured to a wall using brackets on the top and bottom edges. The sculpture now has a custom made wooden stand into which it is slotted (fig.5).
How to citeLyndsey Morgan, 'Technique and Condition', July 2013, in Alice Correia, ‘Relief Head 1923 by Henry Moore OM, CH’, catalogue entry, November 2012, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www
Such was the influence of Gauguin’s work on early twentieth-century European art that it is possible that Moore came to absorb his formal and stylistic innovations vicariously through the work of other artists. For example, although Moore never directly drew links between his work and that of the German expressionist group Die Brücke, Relief Head is reminiscent of works created by artists such as Emil Nolde (1867–1956) from the 1900s and 1910s. Although they were created in different mediums, Moore’s Relief Head and Nolde’s woodcut Prophet 1912 (fig.4) share a number of characteristics with Gauguin’s self portrait. All three works present a man’s face tightly framed within a demarcated space, executed using bold lines and shapes. In each work the man’s brow is furrowed and the face is elongated, with a prominent chin. Beyond immediate formal similarities, Nolde and Moore appear to have followed Gauguin’s example of rejecting the naturalism and crisp finesse of academic art. In that it shares Gauguin’s legacy with works by other European artists, Moore’s Relief Head can be positioned within a broader narrative of European modernism and specifically within the tendency known as primitivism, which inflected much of the art produced in western Europe during the first half of the twentieth-century.19
How to cite
Alice Correia, ‘Relief Head 1923 by Henry Moore OM, CH’, catalogue entry, November 2012, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www