Property from the Collection of John W. Kluge Sold to Benefit Columbia University
Henry Moore (1898-1986)

Figure in Shelter

Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Figure in Shelter
signed and numbered 'Moore 4/6' (on the top of the base)
bronze with golden brown patina
Height (including base): 72 in. (182.9 cm.)
Conceived in 1985 and cast in the artist's lifetime
Georgetown Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Acquired from the above by the previous owner, 10 November 1992.
A. Bowness, ed., Henry Moore, Complete Sculpture 1980-86, London, 1988, vol. 6, p. 30, no. 652a (another cast illustrated, pl. 25).
D. Mitchinson, Celebrating Moore, Los Angeles, 1998, p. 310, no. 237 (monumental version illustrated in color, p. 309).

Lot Essay

The title Figure in a Shelter immediately brings to mind Moore's famous drawings of Londoners huddled in the tunnels and stations of the city underground during the German aerial blitz in 1940-1942. This is indeed a valid point of reference, but not the only one; Moore is also suggesting a more universal yearning on the part of humanity for shelter within a protective space. On yet another level, A Figure in a Shelter is the outcome of an abstract conception, a dialogue between two opposing but complementary ideas, in which one sculptural form is enclosed within another. This theme, to which Moore referred as Internal and External Forms, can be traced in various works throughout his career. While these works may have originated with a war-related source, the overall theme soon expanded in scope to incorporate to other allusions as well, as Moore recalled in a 1980 conversation with David Mitchinson:

"The idea of one form inside another form may owe some of its incipient beginnings to my interest at one stage when I discovered armour. I spent many hours in the Wallace Collection, in London, looking at armour. Now armour is an outside shell like the shell of a snail which is there to protect the more vulnerable forms inside, as it is in human armour which is hard and put on to protect the soft body. This has led sometimes to the idea of the Mother and Child where the outer form, the mother, is protecting the inner form, the child, like a mother does protect her child" (quoted in A. Wilkinson, Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Berkeley, 2002, pp. 213-214).

The sculptor has moreover recounted elsewhere: "It may be that I remembered reading stories that impressed me and Wyndham Lewis talking about the shell of a lobster covering the soft flesh inside. This became an established idea with me--that of an outer protection to an inner form, and it may have something to do with the mother and child idea; that is where there is the relation of the big thing to the little thing, and the protection idea. The helmet is a kind of protection thing, too, and it became a recording of things inside other things. The mystery of semi-obscurity where one can only half distinguish something. In the helmet you do not quite know what is inside" (quoted in ibid., p. 214).

The earliest precedent for Figure in a Shelter is Two Forms, 1934 (Lund Humphries, no. 153, fig. 1), in which a curved, hollowed out form appears about to envelope a smaller stone-like shape, as if to protect it, or--more sinisterly--to consume it. Moore's first foray into Internal and External Forms per se is The Helmet, 1939-1940 (Lund Humphries, no. 212; fig. 2). Here a hollow form styled after an ancient Greek helmet, with its large cheek-guards, protectively embraces a rather fragile-looking, bandy-limbed figure within. Moore explored this idea in various sketch-book pages during 1947-1948, and in 1950 he created more Helmet Heads (Lund Humphries, nos. 278-281 and 283). Russell has traced the shifting emphasis in these works from an obviously military source--a response to two cataclysmic World Wars and tensions of the ensuing Cold War--to another more typical and warmly intimate theme for Moore, the Mother and Child:

"Within the fulfilled and rounded form is its antithesis, a form that is angular, irregular, uneasy, often forked and frantic. Nature itself set the tone by making the skull one of the more regular and predictable of known objects, and the skull's contents so absolutely erratic and mysterious. Moore from the first gave his outer covering the grand flawless outline of a Greek helmet: what sits within is various enough for the findings of psychiatry Once inside the outer covering it can never be seen completely: when not inside, it looks incomplete and defenceless. The combined figures are, in short, nearer to mother and child, or to mother and foetus, than to any manual of warfare" (op. cit., pp. 139-140).

This idea is clearly apparent in one of the most impressive of Moore internal/external sculptures, the carved elmwood Internal and External Forms, 1953-1954 (Lund Humphries, no. 297; fig. 3). This vertical mingling of separate but complementary forms compelled the psychiatrist Erich Neumann to write:

"What we see here is the mother bearing the still-unborn child within her and holding the born child again in her embrace. But this child is the dweller within the body, the psyche itself, for which the body, like the world, is merely the circumambient space that shelters or casts out. It is no accident that this figure reminds us of those Egyptian sarcophagi in the form of mummies, showing the mother goddess as the sheltering womb that holds and contains the dead man like a child again, as at the beginning. Mother of life, mother of death, and all-embracing body-self, the archetypal mother of man's ego consciousness--this truly great sculpture of Moore's is all these in one" (quoted in ibid., pp. 143 and 145).

The immediate source works for Figure in a Shelter are the final two Helmet Heads that Moore created in 1975, nos. 6 and 7 (Lund Humphries, nos. 651 and 652; the latter, fig. 4). Here the protective shell of the helmet thickens to the extent that its overall shape becomes massive in relation to the internal form, perhaps suggesting the impenetrable blast walls of a bunker. The dual forms may also be likened to a figure in a grotto or in an enveloping niche of some kind. At this point the two halves of the shell covering remained joined to form a single structure which shields and protects the figural mounted inside.

At this point a hiatus of some eight years ensued, at the conclusion of which in 1983 Moore created the present version of Figure in a Shelter, measuring, with its bronze base, 72 inches high (167.5 cm). Here the external shelter has been divided in two asymmetrical pieces, like separate wings, so that with the internal figure the sculpture consists of three pieces. In the following year Moore carved Stone Form in granite, measuring nearly 9 feet tall (Lund Humphries, no. 652b), a sculpture based on the internal form in the present Figure in a Shelter. The bronze version of this subject, titled Bronze Form, cast in 1985-1986 (Lund Humphries, no. 652d), is even taller at 14½ feet (442 cm).

This sequence of sculptures culminated in 1985-1986 with the production of two monumental casts of the complete shelter grouping, titled Large Figure in a Shelter (Lund Humphries, no, 652c; fig. 5), which is a gargantuan 25 feet tall (762 cm). The enlargement from the earlier version (the latter being the sculpture offered here) was made in sections of expanded polystyrene, which was then cast in fiberglass resin and finally in bronze using the sand-casting process. In the present 66-inch version the sculpture is mounted on a circular bronze base. In the monumental version each of the three component pieces is fixed on a steel frame which sits atop a concrete base set in the ground, with the surrounding area built up with earth and a pavement of York-stone slabs.

One cast of Large Figure in a Shelter was installed in 1990 in Guernica, the defenseless Basque town infamously bombed into fiery ruins by the German Luftwaffe during the Spanish Civil War. Considered in this context, the sculpture again takes on connotations of Moore's Second World War shelter drawings, to become a plea for peace. The second cast is sited on the grounds of the Henry Moore Foundation, Much Hadham.

The Large Figure in a Shelter was the last monumental sculpture produced during Moore's lifetime. While the sculptor never saw the two casts installed in their permanent locations, he did view the first cast at the foundry after production was completed. Bernard Meadows has written that "Moore had made many huge sculptures prior to Large Figure in a Shelter through which he explored the relationship between the sculpture and the viewer, but in this last work the relationship became more compelling and complete. This is principally due to its physical size enabling one to walk around inside it and become a part of it" (D. Mitchinson, ed., Celebrating Moore, Berkeley, 1998, p. 310).

(fig. 1) Henry Moore, Two Forms, carved wood, 1934. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photograph from the archives of the Henry Moore Foundation.

(fig. 2) Henry Moore, The Helmet, 1939-1940. Photograph from the archives of the Henry Moore Foundation

(fig. 3) Henry Moore, Internal and External Forms, 1953-1954. Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo. Photograph from the archives of the Henry Moore Foundation.

(fig. 4) Henry Moore, Helmet Head no. 7, 1975, cast 1981. Photograph from the archives of the Henry Moore Foundation.

(fig. 5) Henry Moore, Large Figure in a Shelter, 1985-1986. Photograph from the archives of the Henry Moore Foundation.

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