• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 5990

    20th Century Art

    1 July 1998, London, King Street

  • Lot 25

    HENRY MOORE (1898-1986)

    DRAPED SEATED WOMAN: FIGURE ON STEPS

    Price Realised  

    HENRY MOORE (1898-1986)
    DRAPED SEATED WOMAN: FIGURE ON STEPS
    BRONZE WITH GREEN PATINA
    25 1/2IN. (65CM.) HIGH
    CONCEIVED AND CAST IN 1956 IN AN EDITION OF NINE


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    DRAPED SEATED WOMAN: FIGURE ON STEPS IS THE FIRST OF A SERIES OF WORKS MOORE EXECUTED IN THE MID 1950S THAT DEAL WITH THE NOTION OF THE SEATED FIGURE IN AN ARCHITECTURAL ENVIRONMENT. THEY WERE PART OF A PLANNED EXPLORATION ON A THEME THAT MOORE EXECUTED IN PREPARATION FOR AN IMPORTANT COMMISSIONED SCULPTURE FOR THE UNESCO BUILDING IN PARIS.

    ALTHOUGH MOORE HAD ON OCCASION DEPICTED THE SEATED FIGURE BEFORE, IT ONLY EMERGED AS A CONTINUOUS THEME IN HIS WORK IN 1955. MOORE'S FIRST IDEA FOR THE UNESCO COMMISSION HAD BEEN A SEATED FIGURE LOST IN CONTEMPLATION WHILE READING A BOOK, BUT THIS WAS SOON REJECTED IN FAVOUR OF FIGURES SET AGAINST OR IN CONJUNCTION WITH A BUILDING AS THE RESULTANT UNESCO PIECE WOULD ITSELF HAVE TO BE. IT WAS WHILE WORKING ON THESE IDEAS THAT THE THEME OF THE SEATED WOMAN ON THE STEPS EMERGED IN HIS WORK. THE SEATED FIGURE, AS OPPOSED TO THE STANDING OR RECLINING FORM, REPRESENTED A NEW CHALLENGE THAT MOORE FOUND WAS OPEN TO THE POSSIBILITY OF EXPRESSING PSYCHOLOGICAL CONTENT. MOORE FOUND THAT THROUGH THIS MORE ENCLOSED AND SELF-CONTAINED POSE HE COULD EXPRESS THE PARTICULAR QUALITIES SPECIFIC TO A CERTAIN MOOD OR ATMOSPHERE IN A WAY THAT HAD BEEN DENIED HIM IN HIS EARLIER FIGURES. ALTHOUGH THESE NEWLY DEVELOPED IDEAS WERE ULTIMATELY REJECTED BY MOORE FOR THE UNESCO COMMISSION ON ACCOUNT OF THEIR BEING TOO SPECIFIC, IN A FEW WORKS THEY WERE DEVELOPED INTO FULL-SCALE SCULPTURES IN THEIR OWN RIGHT. DRAPED SEATED WOMAN: FIGURE ON STEPS IS THE FIRST OF THESE.

    IN ADDITION TO THE SEATED FORM, THE OTHER NEW DEPARTURE REPRESENTED BY THE PRESENT WORK IS MOORE'S USE OF DRAPERY TO DEFINE THE CONTOURS OF THE HUMAN FORM. "DRAPERY," MOORE SAID, "CAN EMPHASIZE THE TENSION IN A FIGURE, FOR WHERE THE FORM PUSHES OUTWARDS, SUCH AS ON THE SHOULDERS, THE THIGHS, THE BREASTS ETC. IT CAN BE PULLED TIGHT ACROSS THE FORM, ALMOST LIKE A BANDAGE, AND BY CONTRAST WITH THE CRUMPLED SLACKNESS OF THE DRAPERY WHICH LIES BETWEEN THE SALIENT POINTS, THE PRESSURE FROM INSIDE IS INTENSIFIED. ALSO IN MY MIND WAS TO CONNECT THE CONTRAST OF THE SIZES OF FOLDS, HERE SMALL, FINE AND DELICATE, IN OTHER PLACES BIG AND HEAVY, WITH THE FORM OF MOUNTAINS, WHICH ARE THE CRINKLED SKIN OF THE EARTH. (THE ANALOGY, I THINK, COMES OUT IN CLOSE-UP PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN OF THE DRAPERY ALONE)". (HENRY MOORE CITED IN, J. RUSSELL, HENRY MOORE, LONDON 1968, P. 132).

    IN ATTEMPTING TO ECHO THE "CRINKLED SKIN OF THE EARTH", MOORE'S AIMS REFLECT MANY OF HIS CONTEMPORARIES' PREOCCUPATIONS WITH "MATERIAL", AS WELL AS HIS OWN ON-GOING PORTRAYAL OF WOMAN AS THE ARCHETYPAL "EARTH MOTHER". MOORE BEGAN TO USE DRAPERY IN HIS SCULPTURE AFTER HAVING EXPLORED THE DRAPED FORM SO POWERFULLY IN HIS FAMOUS "SHELTER" DRAWINGS MADE IN THE LONDON UNDERGROUND DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR. AFTER HIS FIRST VISIT TO GREECE IN 1951, WHERE HE CAME ACROSS THE CLASSICAL USE OF THE DRAPED FIGURE, IT APPEARED MORE FREQUENTLY IN HIS WORK, RECEIVING ITS FULLEST EXPRESSION IN THIS SCULPTURE AND ITS TWO SISTER WORKS, DRAPED SEATED WOMAN OF 1957-8 AND DRAPED RECLINING WOMAN OF 1957-8.

    IN THE HIGHLY RESTORED WORKING MODEL FOR DRAPED SEATED WOMAN: FIGURE ON STEPS, IT IS POSSIBLE TO SEE THAT THE PRECISE NATURE OF THE DRAPERY IN THIS PIECE WAS OF PARTICULAR CONCERN TO MOORE, WHO USED CRUMPLED SHEETS OF NEWSPAPER EMBEDDED IN THE PLASTER IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE THE EXACT RESULT HE DESIRED. THIS EFFECT, SOMEWHAT AKIN TO PLOUGHED EARTH, NOT ONLY DELIBERATELY REFERS TO THE EARTH, BUT ALSO ECHOES THE PROGRESSION OF STEPS ONTO WHICH THE FIGURE IS PLACED. THIS LENDS A CERTAIN POETRY TO THE PIECE, AS WELL AS A STARTLING UNITY AND COUNTERBALANCE TO THE WHOLE COMPOSITION.

    Provenance

    ACQUIRED DIRECTLY FROM THE ARTIST BY THE PRESENT OWNERS IN THE LATE 1950S


    Literature

    EXH. CAT., SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTE, WASHINGTON D.C 1966-68,
    SCULPTURES AND DRAWINGS BY HENRY MOORE, 1966-68, NO. 13 (ANOTHER CAST ILLUSTRATED).
    R. MELVILLE, HENRY MOORE, SCULPTURE AND DRAWINGS 1921-1969, LONDON 1972, NO.S 516-7 (OTHER CASTS ILLUSTRATED).
    EXH. CAT., FORTE DI BELVEDERE, FLORENCE 1972, HENRY MOORE, NO. 97 (ANOTHER CAST ILLUSTRATED P. 169).
    ED. A. BOWNESS, HENRY MOORE COMPLETE SCULPTURE 1955-64, LONDON 1985, VOL. 3, NO. 427, P. 34 AND PL. 57 (ANOTHER CAST ILLUSTRATED).
    EXH. CAT., STäDTISCHE KUNSTHALLE, MANNHEIM, HENRY MOORE URSPRUNG UND VOLLENDUNG, 1996, NO. 72 (ANOTHER CAST ILLUSTRATED IN COLOUR P. 137).


    Exhibited

    LAUSANNE, SCHWEIZERISCHE LANDESAUSSTELLUNG, ART EUROPéEN DANS LES COLLECTIONS SUISSES, MAY 1964.
    ST. ETIENNE, MUSéE D'ART MODERNE DE ST. ETIENNE, L'ART EN EUROPE 1945-1950, DECEMBER 1987-FEBRUARY 1988.