Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Henry Moore (1898-1986)

Reclining Figure No. 7

Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Reclining Figure No. 7
signed and numbered 'Moore 3/9' (on the top of the base); stamped with the foundry mark 'H.NOACK BERLIN' (on the side of the base)
bronze with green and brown patina
Length: 39¼ in. (99.7 cm.)
Conceived in 1978-1980 and cast in an edition of nine plus one
Barbara Guggenheim Associates, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in October 1985.
D. Mitchinson, ed., Henry Moore Sculpture, London, 1981, no. 618, p. 296 (another cast illustrated; titled 'Reclining Figure: Distorted').
A. Bowness, ed., Henry Moore, Sculpture and Drawings, vol. 5, Sculpture, 1974-1980, London, 1983, no. 752, pp. 40 & 41 (another cast illustrated pls. 158-161).
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.
Sale room notice
Please note that this bronze is cast in an edition of nine plus one and not as stated in the printed catalogue.

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Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas
Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas

Lot Essay

Conceived between 1978 and 1980, Reclining Figure No. 7 is a remarkable example of one of the most prominent themes of Henry Moore's artistic production, 'From the very beginning the reclining figure has been my main theme', Moore declared. 'The first one I made was around 1924, and probably more than half of my sculptures since then have been reclining figures' (quoted in A. Wilkinson, ed., Henry Moore, Writings and Conversations, Aldershot, 2002, p. 212). Resting on one of her flanks and propping herself up with her arms, Reclining Figure No. 7 presents a female figure who is alert in her abandon. With her head raised to glance into a distant horizon, she dominates her space with assurance and poise.

Moore's early reclining figures were inspired by what he called 'primitive art'. 'There was a period where I tried to avoid looking at great sculpture of any kind the Greek and Renaissance were the enemy one had to throw all that over and start again from the beginning of primitive art', (Moore quoted in C. Lichtenstern, Henry Moore, Work - Theory - Impact, London, 2008, p. 146-150). His interest in the reclining figure was sparked by a Mayan sculpture, the Chacmool from Chichen Itza (Museo Nacional de Anthropologia, Mexico City), which he had seen reproduced in Walter Lehmann's Altmexikanische Kunstgeschichte around 1927 and later as a plaster cast in the Musée de l'Homme (now Musée du Quai Branly) in Paris. The Chacmool deeply impressed Moore with 'its stillness and alertness, a sense of readiness, and the whole presence of it' (Moore quoted in ibid, p. 21). Although stylistically different from the Chacmool, Reclining Figure No. 7 nevertheless embodies that impression of 'readiness' which had marked Moore so deeply, especially in the striking detail of the head, turned from the rest of the body with emphasis and purpose.

Despite his earlier resentment of classical art, from the 1950s onwards Moore began to appreciate the sculptures of Greek Antiquity, stating in 1968: 'It's only perhaps in the last ten or fifteen years that I began to know how wonderful the Elgin Marbles are' (Moore quoted in ibid, p. 150). This overture towards Antiquity brought new impetus to his reclining figure. Reclining Figure No. 7 relates to Greek statuary and in particular to Illisus, a fragment from the west pediment of the Parthenon, part of the British Museum collection which Moore had often explored. Reclining Figure No. 7 echoes its half-reclining pose on a flank with bent knees and the energetic propping of the arm, accentuating, the dynamism of its pose.

Ancient Greek reclining figures may have intrigued Moore because of their semantic relationship with nature. Impersonating rivers, works such as Illisus expressed the energetic flow of water, the power of nature, yet maintained a highly naturalistic representation of the human body. To Moore, who had always searched for a connection between the forms of his works and the forms of the natural world, this idea must have provided a stimulating connection. Pushing the abstraction of the human body to its limit, he turned the image of the reclining figure into a form which seems to have come directly from the world it evokes: finely polished and with soft curves, Reclining Figure No. 7 may have emerged from a river, smoothed by the slow, persistent flow of water.

Freed in its distortions, the human figure opens up to a whole new set of meanings, transforming itself into a landscape made of hills, valleys, stone arches and cliffs. 'I rather believe', Moore explained, 'that through the image of the human figure one can also express non-human issues, such as landscape' (quoted in Moore, ibid, p. 95). Reclining Figure No. 7 demonstrates the way Moore was able to transcend a figurative subject in order to explore forms in all their expressive potential.

This preoccupation with the potential of forms, rather than identifiable shapes, is indeed the core issue at stake in Moore's ever-changing reclining figures. For Moore, the reclining figure was the pretext for the exploration of forms, the vessel through which he could express his evolving ideas about sculpture. 'The vital thing for an artist is to have a subject that allows [him] to try out all kinds of formal ideas - things that he doesn't know for certain, but that he wants to experiment with in my case the reclining figure provides chances of that sort' (Moore quoted in A. Wilkinson, ed., op. cit., p. 212). In its polished surface and flowing lines, Reclining Figure No. 7 therefore conveys one of Moore's 'form-ideas', embodied in one of his most celebrated themes.

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