Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Property of a Private European Collector Many of Moore's large sculptures were intended for open, public spaces, where they might communicate with people from all walks of life. Their small, domestic size notwithstanding, the Family Groups are nonetheless Moore's most socially-minded sculptures, having originated as the sculptor's response to a proposal for a public commission, educational in its theme, related to the building of new towns and schools in Britain before the Second World War. Following the conclusion of the conflict the Family Group sculptures took on additional significance as the embodiment of a return to peacetime virtues, and they were appreciated for their sense of general well-being, nurturing and security, qualities welcomed by a beleaguered and war-weary nation. The Family Groups represented the renewed emphasis on fundamental humanist values, while providing an aesthetic model for community spirit and co-operation during the postwar period of reconstruction, renewed economic development and the introduction of new social services. It has been customary to attribute Moore's interest in doing Family Groups to the joyous event in 1946 when his wife Irina gave birth of his daughter Mary, their only child. Mary was a miraculous arrival; the sculptor was forty-seven, and his wife was thirty-nine; her previous pregnancies had all ended in miscarriages, most recently in 1943. In the context of Moore's art, however, Mary's birth was actually more of a timely coincidence--the sculptor had already been actively treating the Family Group theme for more than two years, while the larger project in which he was engaged had its origins even further back, in the late 1930s. Moore later described the circumstances surrounding the genesis of the Family Group idea: "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. It was called a Village College and was meant to be different from other elementary schools because it was meant to put into practice lots of Henry Morris' ideas on education... 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 it 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, a dozen or more... Some of the maquettes were ideas for bronze, but most of them were for stone because for the Impington school I felt stone would be the suitable material" (quoted in A. Wilkinson, ed., Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Berkeley, 2002, p. 273) The three member Family Group, lot 64 in this sale, is one of the fourteen small versions that Moore executed on this theme terracotta between the autumn of 1944 and the spring of 1945. He made three more during the next couple of years, including the four-figure Family Group included here as lot 66. The models vary in the degree to which they naturalistic or anti-naturalistic, with the earliest groups tending toward the former, although none approach the degree of abstraction seen in some of Moore's Reclining Figures. The idea of the Family Group configuration quite naturally evolved from Moore's Mother and Child sculptures, one of his earliest themes--Moore's very first surviving stone carving, done in 1922, was Mother and Child (Lund Humphries, no. 3). By 1940, of the more than one hundred fifty sculptures he had produced by that date, twenty-two were versions of the Mother and Child theme. Moore was drawn to his subject because of its significance in the history of art, its inherent emotional character and the tremendous potential for formal development. The Mother and Child theme allowed him to explore the formal interaction between two figures--one large, the other much smaller-based on their powerful and affecting emotional connection. Despite the disparity in their physical size, each of the two figures carries equivalent emotional weight, which they contribute toward a single, unified plastic entity. The theme might be conceived in either a secular context as an everyday Mother and Child, or with a sacred connotation as a Madonna and Child. The Impington school project gave Moore pause to consider the importance of the family as the primary human social unit whose close interpersonal relationships provided an exemplary guide for wider communal values. The addition of the father into the Mother and Child subject, leading to the creation of a family theme, took the intimate domesticity of the Mother and Child experience into the public sphere, and was the ideal subject for a civic project. The three- and especially the four-member Family Group offered Moore the opportunity to create more complex relationships, both plastic and emotional, between three and four figures, the parents and their children. Moore wrote: "I must have worked for nine months or so on the Family Group themes and ideas, but again, Henry Morris found it difficult to raise money for the sculpture, and also my maquettes were not liked by the local education authorities, and again nothing materialized. I carried out three or four of the six inch maquettes more fully into a slightly larger size [lot 64] for my own satisfaction, and then I went on with other work" (quoted in ibid., p. 273). The Family Group commission became a possibility again in 1947, this time for a different location, as Moore has recounted: "John Newsom, the Director of education in Hertfordshire, a friend of Henry Morris, and having similar progressive ideas on education, told me of a large school being built by the Hertfordshire education authorities... Newsom knew of the projected Impington sculpture and now said, as that had fallen through, would I be prepared to do a piece of sculpture at their new school at Stevenage. I agreed, for here was the chance of carrying through one of the ideas on a large scale which I had wanted to do. I went to see the school and chose from one of my previous ideas the one which I had wanted most to carry out on a life-size scale. This was a bronze idea (the one which the Museum [of Modern Art, New York] bought from my exhibition in 1945)" (quoted in ibid., pp. 273-274). The "bronze idea" to which the sculptor is referring is the three-figure Family Group (Lund Humphries, no. 239), which is five inches (12.8 cm.) high. The full-size bronze version that Moore finally installed in 1949 at the Barclay School in Stevenage (Lund Humphries, no. 269; fig. 4) measures 60 inches (150 cm.) in height. While the four figure Family Groups outnumber the three-figure sculptures by almost two to one, Moore may have favored the three-person group for the Stevenage commission partly because it reflected his own family make-up, and for the reason that this configuration could focus more clearly on the essential three-way relationship between father, mother and child, with the latter never specified as a boy or girl, but presented very simply as the couple's offspring, their first child. At a time when chronic labor shortages were jeopardizing the revitalization of the postwar British economy, one might detect in the appeal of the Family Groups a subliminal exhortation to young Britons to disregard the shortages and privations of that difficult era, and to get started on creating families and thereby raise the post-war birth rate, just as America had already entered the baby-boom era and had begun to experience unprecedented growth and prosperity. Moore put the small Family Group terracotta sculptures to productive use, beyond their initial purpose of helping him to prepare for the large public monument, by having them cast in bronze in his first regular, numbered editions. He then cast some of the Mother and Child models. These editions met with great success among collectors and museum curators--in 1945 the Tate purchased seven of these sculptures--helping to establish the sculptor's reputation at home and abroad, while alleviating his financial worries and enabling him to undertake larger and more expensive projects. Artist photo: Moore in his studio at Perry Green, circa 1949, with the plaster version of Family Group, prior to being cast in bronze for Barclay School, Stevenage. Photograph by Robert Hummel. Barcode: 29175437 (fig. 1) Three Family Group terracotta models, 1944-1947. At center is the model for the Family Group lot 64. Barcode: 29175468 (fig. 2) Henry Moore, Family Group, 1948-1949. Barclay School, Stevenage, Hertfordshire UK. Photograph by Andrew Dunn.
Henry Moore (1898-1986)

Family Group

Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Family Group
signed 'Moore' (on the back)
bronze with green and brown patina
Height: 6 1/8 in. (15.6 cm.)
Conceived in 1944 and cast in the artist's lifetime
Waddington Galleries, London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, circa 1995.
H. Read, Henry Moore Sculpture and Drawings, New York, 1949, no. 106e (another cast illustrated).
W. Grohmann, Henry Moore, London, 1960, p. 8, no. 120 (another cast illustrated, pl. 120).
A. Bowness, ed., Henry Moore, Sculpture and Drawings: Scultpure 1921-48, London, 1965, vol. 1, p. 143, no. 227 (another cast illustrated).
R. Melville, Henry Moore Sculpture and Drawings 1921-1969, London, 1970, no. 316 (stone version illustrated).

Lot Essay

This bronze Family Group was cast from a terracotta model Moore executed in 1944 (see introductory text; fig. 1). In 1954-1955 the sculptor carved an enlarged version in Hadene stone measuring 64½ inches high (164 cm.), which became known as the Harlow Family Group (Lund Humphries, no. 364; fig. 1). Moore wrote:

"The architect of the New Town of Harlow, together with a few people who lived in Harlow, thought that their New Town should not be completely bare of art, and they formed the Harlow Art Trust.

"The Art Trust asked me for a piece of sculpture--they hoped for a family group. Harlow being so near my home in Much Hadham, and many of the Trust members being my friends, I wanted to help and so I carved this piece for them and helped to choose a most pleasant site for it--near the old church on a grassy slope with lots of open space--here it could be seen from a long distance as people approached the New Town" (quoted in D. Mitchinson, ed., Henry Moore Sculpture, with comments by the artist, London, 1981, p. 128).

(fig. 1) Henry Moore, Harlow Family Group, 1954-1955. Harlow Art Trust, Harlow New Town, Essex, UK. Photograph by John Hedgecoe.

Barcode: 29175444

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