Upright Motive No.2
1955–6, cast c.1958–62
3353 x 768 x 972 mm
Presented by the artist 1978
In an edition of 5 plus 1 artist’s copy
Technique and condition
When the plaster was complete a mould was taken from it so that it could be cast in hollow bronze at the foundry. The maximum size of any one piece of cast bronze depends upon the size of the crucible at the foundry, as the molten bronze used to make the sculpture must be poured into the mould in one go. In practice this means that bronzes of this size are usually cast in sections, and then welded together. This sculpture was probably cast in at least three separate pieces, although the weld lines have been carefully disguised using a technique known as chasing. This involves filing down any excess metal from the weld and then texturing the surface with punch tools to match the surrounding bronze surface.
Making the Upright Motives
It is probable that Moore made the plaster maquette for Upright Motive No.2 (fig.9) in his maquette studio in the grounds of his home, Hoglands, at Perry Green in Hertfordshire. Formerly the village shop, the building was used by Moore in the 1950s for creating small plaster sculptures and was lined with shelves on which his collection of bones, shells, and pebbles – what he called his ‘library of natural forms’ – was stored.5 Surrounded by these objects, Moore appropriated their shapes when creating his own sculptures. In 1963 he explained to the critic David Sylvester how he worked with found natural objects:
Sources and development
‘Primitive art’ was an over-arching term used by artists and art historians in the first half of the twentieth century to describe examples of non-Western art – such as indigenous art from Africa, North America, Asia and the Pacific Islands – and ancient, prehistoric and medieval European art. Spanning geography and historical time, primitive art was deemed to be more expressive and authentic than the staid naturalistic conventions of European fine art made since the Renaissance. Moore himself identified that his upright motives showed a resemblance to examples of primitive art. In 1965, for example, the sculptor noted that he began work on his maquettes ‘by balancing different forms one above the other – with results rather like the North-West American totem poles’.15 Read proposed that prototypes for Moore’s standing totems could be found in the prehistoric standing stones of Stonehenge and Avebury Circle in south-west England and Carnac in Brittany, France.16 Moore first visited Stonehenge as a student in autumn 1921 and retained an interest in the Neolithic standing stones throughout his career. According to the art historian Andrew Causey, Moore revisited the site on more than one occasion in the 1950s ‘when his daughter, Mary, was at school nearby’.17 Moore’s interest in Stonehenge culminated in a series of lithographs depicting the standing stones made in 1972–3 (see Tate P02169– P02187).
21 New Ireland is a large island in Papua New Guinea and Garrould has suggested that Moore may have sketched the ‘shield or implement whilst on a visit to the Ethnographical department of the British Museum’.22 Although the original source has not been identified, it is known that Moore made regular trips to the museum following his arrival in London in 1921 and used its collection of prehistoric, medieval and non-Western art as a source of inspiration for sculptural ideas throughout his career. With this in mind, an unnamed critic writing about Moore’s upright motives in the Burlington Magazine in 1965 suggested that ‘we can find echoes of their monumentality in Scottish early medieval crosses, in Celtic art and even in ancient Assyrian obelisks. Perhaps the days Moore spent in the British Museum thirty-five years before these sculptures were executed left him with some feeling for the grandeur and strangeness of upright stone monoliths’.23
The loosely pear-shaped form with an angular indentation that is positioned towards the foot of Upright Motive No.2 can perhaps be traced to drawings Moore made of ancient Greek helmets in 1937 (fig.16) and to his series of ‘Helmet Head’ sculptures from the 1950s (fig.17). The rounded dome of Helmet Head No.1 1950, with its cut-away areas pre-dates the helmet-like section of Upright Motive No.2 with its smooth, rounded form into which is cut an almost right-angled recess.
In addition to Moore’s evident interest in ancient Greek helmets, Upright Motive No.2, and indeed the upright motive series, may be regarded as the culmination of a sequence of formal developments made after Moore’s first and only trip to Greece in 1951. Following his trip Moore made a drawing of two vases, annotated with the phrase ‘Etruscan Pottery’ (fig.18). At the sketches present two different types of vase; on the left is an elongated form, suggestive of Greek neck-amphorae: tall ceramic pots with distinctive handles and a thin tubular neck,26 while the vase on the right is a vertical arrangement of interlocking parts. The same sketchbook contains other drawings in which Moore appears to have developed the vases into a series of segmented female figures (fig.19). As well as sharing a comparable stacked arrangement, the drawings of female figures and Upright Motive No.2 also feature the same motif of circles connected by vertical lines. Although Moore did not sign or date these sketches they have been retrospectively dated 1955–6. However, the cataloguer of Moore’s drawings, Ann Garrould, noted that the other contents of the notebook in which these sketches were made indicates that ‘the notebook was started well before 1955’.27 This in turn supports Garrould’s argument that these sketches also influenced the design of Moore’s Bird Table, which was made in 1954.28
Grouping the Upright Motives
The Henry Moore Gift
Following the exhibition the three upright motive sculptures were returned to Moore. In a letter to Moore’s secretary Betty Tinsley dated 25 July 1978, Ruth Rattenbury, Assistant Keeper of the Collection, itemised a number of works to be returned to the artist for repairs, and of the three upright motives noted that, ‘Mr Moore said that he would have them treated so that they were all the same colour’.48 In May 1979 the sculptures were returned to Tate and installed on a specially designed base on the lawn in front of the gallery. It is evident from the photographs taken of the installation at the time that the sculptures no longer displayed the variations in colour as they had previously (fig.26).
How to cite
Alice Correia, ‘Upright Motive No.2 1955–6, cast c.1958–62 by Henry Moore OM, CH’, catalogue entry, March 2013, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www