Moore worked on the Family Group sculptures between 1944 and 1947 (see lot 8), creating fourteen terracotta models and three enlarged versions in bronze. One of the models done in 1945 was enlarged to life-size for the Barclay School in Stevenage, and the casting of the bronze was completed in 1949 (Lund Humphries, no. 269). In the same year, working from a maquette he made in 1943, he completed the stone Claydon Mother and Child (LH, no. 270) for St. Peter's Church in Claydon. In 1950 he modeled four sculptures on a new mother and child subject, the Rocking Chairs. In three of these works a seated mother playfully lifts her child high in the air (Nos. 1, 3 [offered here] and 4; LH, nos. 274, 276 and 277), and in the other, she balances a standing toddler on her knees (No. 2; LH, no. 275).
"The rocking chair sculptures were done for my daughter Mary," Moore explained, "as toys which actually rock" (quoted in J. Hedgecoe and H. Moore, Henry Moore, p. 178). Mary was born in 1946, the year after Moore completed the small terracotta family groups. Henry and Irina Moore had been married sixteen years when she arrived; the sculptor was forty-seven, his wife was thirty-nine, and her previous pregnancies had resulted in miscarriages. Mary was their only child. "She was in every sense a precious baby," Roger Berthoud has written. "Henry was from the first an active and doting father, and played a full part in helping to look after his beloved daughter" (The Life of Henry Moore, New York, 1987, p. 197). Mary was four when Moore created the Rocking Chairs for her, older than the child in the sculptures--Moore was happily reminiscing about his little girl when she was learning to walk.
The first three Rocking Chairs are each about 12 inches high, the fourth, subtitled Miniature (based on No. 3), is just under half the size of the others. "These were done to amuse my daughter when she was a child," he commented in conversation with Wolfgang Fischer in 1971. "To have made them even half-life size--that is, three feet high--would gave been wrong. They would have lost their toy-like quality" (quoted in A. Wilkinson, ed., Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Berkeley, 2002, p. 210). These sculptures are Moore's only kinetic works--it is virtually impossible not to want to handle and rock them. "I discovered while doing them," Moore recalled, "that the speed of the rocking chair depended on the curvature of the base and the disposition of the weights and balances of the sculpture, so each of them rocks at a different speed" (J. Hedgecoe and H. Moore, op. cit., p. 178). In 1952 Moore created a fifth work related to this series, Mother and Child on Ladderback Rocking Chair (LH, no. 312), in which the figures have a knobbier, more surrealist appearance.
Rocking Chair No. 3, offered here, is certainly the most appealing of the group, from both emotional and formal points-of-view. No. 2 is the most realistic, and the only one which has a complete chair. In No. 3 and the other two, the mother is seated on two chair legs--she is both figure and chair combined into one. There is a split in her upper body, resembling the frame of the back of a chair, which is also like a large heart rendered in an open, see-through form. The mother in No. 3 joyously raises her child, whose legs fly out, as in a perfect moment from a home movie. Grohmann has written: "[The Rocking Chairs] are enchanting impromptus, the offspring of a lighter muse. One is inclined to suppose that family life underwent a happy release of tension through his young daughter Mary, forgetting that at the same period the frightful 'Helmet' series came into being... As with Mozart, tragedy is next door to comedy...jubilation is all the more genuine when behind it stands the totality of life with all its unresolved conflicts" (The Art of Henry Moore, London, 1960, pp. 142-143).