‘Eventually, I found that form and space are one and the same thing. You can’t understand space without understanding form’ (Moore, quoted in A. Wilkinson, ed., Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershot, 2002, p. 206).
Conceived in 1975, Two Piece Reclining Figure: Armless offers a dynamic exploration of one of Henry Moore’s favourite motifs – the sculptural potentialities of the fragmented, abstracted human body. The sinuous curving form of the reclining figure was a central theme in Moore’s oeuvre, a continual site of experimentation and exploration which offered him a freedom to play with space and line in his sculptures. In the present work, Moore divides the figure into two distinct, biomorphically-shaped forms, the arrangement of the individual elements conveying an impression of a torso and head on one side, and a pair of outstretched legs on the other. The space between the sections is carefully calculated by the artist in order to generate a tension and energy that simultaneously divides and ties the two groupings together, achieving a perfect equilibrium between solidity and weightlessness.
Taking advantage of the innumerable visual possibilities of the multi-part composition, Moore develops an enhanced, dynamic and more varied viewing experience, as the character of the sculpture shifts and changes according to the angle from which it is considered. The rolling, biomorphic curves and rhythmic undulations of the figural forms in Two Piece Reclining Figure: Armless evoke the organic, natural contours of the landscape. From certain viewpoints the shapes, hollows, and textured surface of the forms resemble rocks and rolling hills within a landscape, or a cave in the side of a coastal cliff. Moore had, by abstracting and distorting the horizontal human figure, discovered a harmonious equivalence between the natural contours of the landscape and human anatomy. Realising the expressive potential of this fusion Moore stated, ‘these sculptures are a mixture, an amalgamation of the human body with rock-forms and with landscape, and so like a metaphor in poetry giving to each element a new aspect, and perhaps a new meaning’ (Moore, quoted in ibid., p. 289).