Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Property from a Private American Collection
Henry Moore (1898-1986)

Woman Knitting

Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Woman Knitting
signed and dated 'Moore 49.' (lower right)
watercolor, black chalk, colored wax crayons and pencil on paper
29 7/8 x 22 1/8 in. (75.8 x 56.2 cm.)
Executed in 1949
Arthur Jeffress Gallery, London.
E.J. van Wisselingh & Co., Amsterdam.
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York (acquired from the above, 1955).
Eleanor S. and John M. Shoenberg, St. Louis (acquired from the above, 1958); sale, Christie's, New York, 15 May 1997, lot 346.
Jeffrey H. Loria & Co., Inc., New York (acquired at the above sale).
Acquired from the above by the present owners, 10 November 1997.
A. Garrould, ed., Henry Moore: Complete Drawings, 1940-49, London, 2001, vol. 3, p. 290, no. AG 49.7 (illustrated).
London, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Henry Moore, Figures in Space: Drawings, 1953, no. 90.
The City Art Museum of St. Louis, A Galaxy of Treasures from St. Louis Collections, January-February 1961 (illustrated).

Lot Essay

"Drawing is the expression and the explanation of the shape of a solid object," Moore explained to Alan Wilkinson in 1977, "...an attempt to understand the full three dimensionality of the human figure, to learn about the object one is drawing, and to present it on the flat surface of the paper" (quoted in A.G. Wilkinson, The Drawings of Henry Moore, exh. cat., The Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 1977, p. 12). Moore's lifelong dedication to the practice of draughtsmanship led him to fill sketchbooks with a wide variety of drawings from which he would choose projects to pursue in sculpture, studies which would assist him in the creation of a sketch model in preparation for beginning work on the full-sized sculpture.

Moore also employed drawing when he had a subject already in mind, to sort out from within his theme those variations which seemed worthwhile exploring. Such was the case when he developed the Family Group sculptures, mainly from preliminary studies, in 1944-1945 (see lot 4). The serene beauty and warmth of humanity with which he imbued these drawings moreover led Moore to once again regard drawing as an autonomous form of expression, purely as an end in itself. He had worked in this manner earlier in the decade when making his famous wartime shelter and coal mine drawings, which depict the human form in situations that did not lend themselves to specifically related sculptural treatment, but as a conception of human form in a more generalized aspect he might apply elsewhere.

The Family Group drawings (Garrould, AG 43-44.1) inspired Moore to treat other domestic subjects during the late 1940s: women engaged in conversation, reading, winding wool and--as seen in the present work--knitting, while occupying an austere, sparsely furnished but luminous household interior. These subjects are also related to the series of drawings Moore executed in the so-called "Rescue Sketchbook" of 1944 (later separated) which Moore created for Edward Sackville-West's melodrama The Rescue, based on Homer's Odyssey. On one sheet Penelope works at her loom (Garrould, AG 44.26). Moore gave the motif of weaving or knitting a mythological dimension in his haunting portrayal of The Three Fates, 1948 (Garrould, AG 48.27): Lachesis on the right holds the distaff, symbolizing birth, as Clotho on the left spins the wool yarn, which is life, while Atropos stands between them with her sheers awaiting the dread moment she must cut the thread of life.

Woman Knitting of 1949 demonstrates Moore's expressive use of what he called his "two-way sectional line method of drawing," in which he employed a network of intersecting lines, "both down the form and around it," to define the figure and project a powerful sense of volume and weight (quoted in A.G. Wilkinson, op. cit., p. 16). These lines might also serve to guide the sculptor's visualization of form for the purpose of carving, for as Wilkinson observed, "The figure looks as if it has been composed of stones cut into sections and fitted together like a three-dimensional jig-saw puzzle" (ibid., p. 128). Purely as drawing, however, Moore's sectional method of describing form imparts a monumental and classical aspect to his depiction of a commonplace domestic activity, projecting that sense of timeless solemnity and a profoundly weighty significance which sculptural transformation is particularly capable of realizing, but in the present work as a two-dimensional image set down on the flatness of paper.

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