Three Motives Against a Wall No.1
1958, cast 1959
505 x 1080 x 440 mm
Purchased from the artist by the Victoria and Albert Museum 1961; transferred to the Tate Gallery 1983
Number 6 in an edition of 12 plus 1 artist’s copy
Technique and condition
The presence of investment in some crevices suggests that the three biomorphic forms and their individual bases were cast using the lost wax technique (fig.1), whereas the base and backdrop are more likely to have been sand cast, as is revealed by the slightly granular texture to the surface at the back (fig.2).1 It is likely that these two flat pieces are welded at the point where they meet. Looking closely at this sculpture it is possible to see how Moore carefully textured the surfaces. On the figures there are many thin striations made using a combination of fine saw blades, and fine lines that would have been incised into the original plaster model (fig.3). To create the raised wood grain texture on the backdrop it is likely that Moore simply pressed a wooden surface against a soft clay slab. The same method was probably used to create the deeply impressed square and rectangular marks in the same surface. Close examination reveals that there are also numerous stippled linear and dotted impressions on the vertical face and top edge of the backdrop, some of which may have been applied after casting by using small metal punch tools. The bronze base has an undulating surface where the high points have been abraded flat.
After casting the bronze was coloured by means of a process called artificial patination. This process involved applying chemical solutions that reacted with the bronze to produce various coloured compounds. The colour of this sculpture was achieved by first applying a dark brown layer using a chemical such as potassium polysulphide (often known as ‘liver of sulphur) and then a green patinating solution over the top. There are many different patina recipes used to produce green colours on bronzes but they often contain mixtures of copper and ammonium salts dissolved in water. The solution is usually applied in successive layers until the desired colour is achieved. The patinator lightly abraded the green patina on high points of the form to reveal the underlying brown colour before applying a clear wax to consolidate and protect the finished patina (fig.4). A patina has also been applied to the copper sheet on the mount which has resulted in a stippled green and black effect.
Although the three motives are evenly spaced on the base and positioned in a single row, when seen from the side they appear to fan out from the rear of the platform to the front: the left motive leans backwards, the middle motive is upright and the right motive leans forward, creating a sense of movement that encourages a consideration of the relationships between each of the elements.
From plaster to bronze
It is probable that Moore made the plaster motives in his small maquette studio in the grounds of his home, Hoglands, at Perry Green in Hertfordshire. The studio was lined with shelves on which his collection of bones, shells, and pebbles – what he called his ‘library of natural forms’ – was stored.2 It is known that Moore often borrowed shapes from these organic objects when making his sculptures and it is probable that the curvilinear forms of the motives originated from his study of bones and stones. When they were completed Moore sent the plaster maquettes to a professional foundry to be cast. The log book in which Moore recorded when and where an edition was cast reveals that Three Motives Against a Wall No.1 was cast at the Art Bronze Foundry in London, run by Charles Gaskin. It is likely that Moore first came into contact with the foundry when he was Head of the Sculpture Department at Chelsea College of Art in the 1930s because it was located close to the college and was used regularly by staff and students. The sculpture exists in an edition of twelve bronzes plus one artist’s copy, and which were cast between March 1959 and July 1960. Tate’s copy, which was number six in the edition, was made in August 1959.3
Origins and development
Neumann went on to discuss Moore’s uncanny architectural spaces in relation to the work of the Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico (1888–1978), whose work was admired by surrealist artists including René Magritte and Paul Nash. De Chirico’s paintings frequently depict enigmatic town squares, shadowy architectural facades and claustrophobic urban environments that create a tense and menacing atmosphere.
By the time Moore created Three Motives Against a Wall No.1 in 1958 he rarely, if ever, produced preparatory sketches for sculptures, preferring instead to make small hand-held, three-dimensional models in a malleable material such as clay, plaster or wax. When asked in 1960 how he arrived at an idea for sculpture, Moore replied:
19 The motive and this later work share a similar overall form, with a leaning upright section denoting the torso, and an arched section denoting the legs. However, the later work shows how Moore further developed the figure by dividing it into two separate sections.
Other casts of this work may be found in the collections of the Henry Moore Foundation and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. A cast owned by the Art Institute of Chicago was de-accessioned and sold at Christie’s, New York, on 7 November 2007.26 Other examples are believed to be held in private collections.
How to cite
Alice Correia, ‘Three Motives Against a Wall No.1 1958, cast 1959 by Henry Moore OM, CH’, catalogue entry, March 2013, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www