Three Motives Against Wall No.2
1959, cast 1962
460 x 1083 x 381 mm
Inscribed by the artist ‘Moore’ on side of base
Presented by the artist 1978
Number 10 in an edition of 10 plus 1 artist’s copy
Technique and condition
The level of detail on the bronze figures suggests that they were fabricated using the lost wax technique, whereas the base and backdrop are more likely to have been sand cast, as is revealed by the slightly granular texture of the surface at the back (fig.2).1 Small flaws in the casting are often repaired with a plug of bronze that is then carefully smoothed and textured to match the surrounding surface. An example of such a repair is visible as a circular mark on the middle form (fig.3).
After casting the bronze was coloured using a technique known as artificial patination. This process involved applying chemical solutions that reacted with the bronze to create coloured compounds. A dark brown background was applied first using a chemical such as potassium or ammonium polysulphide. This was then followed by the application of a green patina 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 has lightly abraded the green patina on the high points of the form to reveal the underlying brown colour before a clear wax was applied to consolidate and protect the finished patina.
In 1987 the curator Alan Wilkinson asserted that the three forms in Three Motives Against Wall No.2 ‘were undoubtedly based on flint stones in the artist’s studio’.6 In particular, he identified a photograph of stones from Moore’s studio which includes a flint that closely resembles the middle motive of the sculpture (fig.7). This flint stone, positioned second from the right in the photograph, has truncated arm-like protrusions and a large bulbous head that curves forward at a right angle just like the central tall motive.7 Although Moore would often modify his flints and bones with additions and alternations in plaster, Wilkinson argued that in this instance he used the flint with ‘little alteration’.8 In 1963 he explained to Sylvester how he worked with found natural objects:
Origins and interpretation
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. In 1965 Read concurred stating that Three Motives Against Wall No.2, alongside the ‘Upright Motives’ series (Tate T02274–T02276) and Three Part Object 1960 (Tate T02285), was ‘as powerful and sinister as anything yet created by the sculptor’.21
The Henry Moore Gift
How to cite
Alice Correia, ‘Three Motives Against Wall No.2 1959, cast 1962 by Henry Moore OM, CH’, catalogue entry, March 2013, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www