Henry Moore (1898-1986)

Family Group

Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Family Group
bronze with brown patina
Height: 16 in. (40 cm.)
Conceived in 1947 and cast by 1951
Obelisk Gallery, London (by 1951)
Mrs. Illa Kodicek, London (acquired from the above, circa 1952); Estate sale, Christie's, London, 27 June 1994, lot 41.
Waddington Galleries, Ltd., London (acquired at the above sale).
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1994.
D. Sylvester, ed., Henry Moore, Sculpture and Drawings 1921-48, London, 1957, vol. I, pp. 16 and 149, no. 267 (another cast illustrated, p. 149).
W. Grohmann, Henry Moore, London, 1960, p. 8, no. 122 (another cast illustrated).
I. Jianou, Henry Moore, Paris, 1968, p. 75, no. 251 (another cast illustrated).
J. Hedgecoe, Henry Moore, London, 1970, p. 176, no. 3 (another cast illustrated).
R. Melville, Henry Moore Sculpture and Drawings 1921-1969, London, 1970, p. 351, no. 320 (another cast illustrated).

Lot Essay

Moore executed this bronze Family Group in 1947, the year after his wife Irina gave birth to Mary, their first and only child, after sixteen years of marriage. The Second World War had ended two years previously; the coming of peace and the arrival of a new life in his family were auspicious events that gave special meaning to this modern symbol for the enduring value of the familial bond. While it has been customary to attribute Moore's interest in doing Family Groups to the birth of his daughter, the event was actually a welcome and timely coincidence--the sculptor had already been working on this theme since 1944, while engaged in a commission for a public sculpture that pre-dated the war. Moore later recalled:

"When Walter Gropius was working in England before the war he was asked by Henry Morris, Director for Education in Cambridgeshire to design a large school at Impington, near Cambridge... Gropius asked me to do a piece of sculpture for the school. We talked about it and I suggested that a family group would be the right subject Later the war came and I heard no more about until, about 1944, Henry Morris told me that he now thought he could get enough money together for the sculpture if I would still like to think of doing it. I said yes, because the idea right from the start had appealed to me and I began drawings in note book form of family groups. From these notebook drawings I made a number of small maquettes" (quoted in A. Wilkinson, ed., Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Berkeley, 2002, p. 273).

Moore modeled fourteen small Family Groups in terracotta between the autumn of 1944 and the spring of 1945. When difficulties arose in funding the project, "I carried out three or four of the six inch maquettes more fully into a slightly larger size for my own satisfaction," Moore wrote, "and then went on with other work" (ibid.). The Family Group commission became a possibility once again in 1947, this time for schools in the New Towns of Stevenage and Harlow, Hertfordshire. Moore jumped at the opportunity, "for here was the chance of carrying through one of the ideas on a large scale which I had wanted to do" (ibid., pp. 273-274).

The present sculpture is one of three Family Groups Moore cast in bronze during in 1946-1947. These are enlargements of earlier models; this one was derived from a Family Group terracotta that measured 7 7/8 inches in height (Lund Humphries, no. 240). The most naturalistic Family Groups are among the earliest that Moore executed. The forms became increasingly abstract in the later models, with rounded flowing lines as seen here, displaying a suggestion of the surrealist tendency that had been evident in Moore's work during the 1930s, and is also apparent in his sculptures of reclining women during the late 40s and early 50s.

Moore eventually chose two of his three-figure family maquettes for enlargement to life-size for the Stevenage and Harlow commissions (LH., nos. 269 and 364). Among the maquettes, however, four-figure groups outnumber the three-member families almost two to one. The combination of two parents plus two children offers, on formal grounds alone, many more configurative possibilities, as well as a wider range of emotional expression. The two children in this Family Group appear to be twins: a single bow-like bridge--a cradle motif--connects them, and contributes to the overall balance and symmetry of the group. It is by means of these expressive formal elements, rather than the superficial sentiments that traditionally pertain to this subject, that Moore has created this definitive exemplar of familial and communal harmony for a humanistic postwar world.

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