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

Stone Form

Details
Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Stone Form
granite
Height: 105 1/8 in. (267 cm.)
Executed in 1984; this work is unique
Provenance
Marisa del Re Gallery, New York.
Anonymous sale, Christie's, New York, 10 May 1989, lot 93.
Anonymous sale, Christie's, London, 21 June 1993, lot 49.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Literature
A. Bowness, ed., Henry Moore, Complete Sculpture, vol. 6, 1980-86, London, 1988, no. 652b (illustrated nos. 21-25).
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.

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Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas
Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas

Lot Essay

Towering over the viewer at a height of well over two meters, Stone Form is a monumental example of the biomorphic abstraction which characterised some of Henry Moore's most suggestive works. Sculpted in granite in 1984, the work is unique aside from a bronze version (A. Bowness, ed., Henry Moore, Complete Sculpture, vol. 6 1980-86, London, 1988, no. 652d). Combining hard edges with smooth curves, Stone Form articulates an apparently simple, yet entrancing form. While in its movement the lower curve of the sculpture recalls the vertical swing of a pendulum, the two upper bulbous parts are animated by a slight horizontal twist. The sculpture nevertheless remains solidly anchored to the land through its base, which elevates it like a biomorphic totem into the open air.

Despite its abstract appearance, Stone Form was chosen by Moore to represent the human figure in two bronze groups titled Figure in a Shelter and Large Figure in a Shelter (Bowness, 652a & 652c). In those works, the sculpture appears in the middle of two shell-like forms. Viewed in that context, Stone Form assumes an anthropomorphic dimension: with heavy breasts and large hips, it embodies perhaps the symbolical essence of womanhood. Certainly, it appears to be a substitute for a human figure. In its ambivalent relation to figuration and abstraction, the work represents Moore's approach to representation: 'They think that abstraction means getting away from reality and it often means precisely the opposite - that you are getting closer to it, away from a visual interpretation but nearer to an emotional understanding' (Moore quoted in A. Wilkinson, ed., Henry Moore, Writings and Conversations, Aldershot, 2002, p. 114).

Stone Form's biomorphic abstraction partly derives from Moore's creative process. In its simplest form, the work is reminiscent of the shape of a femur. Searching for inspiration in the natural world around him, Moore started looking at bones in the 1930s. Although pebbles, flintstones and shells were among the objects that had inspired and intrigued Moore's imagination, bones carried a particular significance for him. 'You can feel that the bone has had some sort of use in life; it has experienced tensions, has supported weights and has actually performed an organic function, which a pebble has not done at all' (Moore quoted in C. Lichtenstern, Henry Moore, Work - Theory - Impact, London, 2008, p. 59). While in the 1930s Moore would develop these initial shapes through drawings, in his late career his approach became more tactile. In his studio at Much Hadham he collected small, natural forms; after holding them in his hands to get their feel, he would cast them in plaster, carving and scraping from there to create the sculpture that would translate his idea.

Probably born out of this creative process, Stone Form was conceived on a small scale and only later enlarged. Despite its size, the work maintains a tactile, intimate feel: one can imagine clutching one's hand around the upper part of the sculpture or running it along the hard and soft angles of its body. The art critic David Sylvester considered Moore's late works as being able to create 'haptic images', making forms appear the way they feel, rather than focusing on their visual qualities (quoted in ibid., p. 175). The distortions in Stone Form seem to obey this principle: triggering tactile associations in the viewer's mind, rather than expanding in space to create an optical effect.

The combination of flat and curved surfaces in Stone Form conveys an idea of movement from within, as if an internal force, rather the artist's chisel, had shaped its body. In this dynamism, the work expresses the ambition of Moore's sculpture; as he declared: 'One of the things I would like to think my sculpture has is a force, is a strength, is a life, a vitality from inside it, so that you have a sense that the form is pressing from inside trying to burst or trying to give off the strength from inside itself' (quoted in ibid., p. 59). Evoking the human presence through a form deeply rooted in the natural world, Stone Form is a unique example of the biomorphic vitality enshrined in Moore's sculptural works.


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