Henry Moore, O.M., C.H. (1898-1986)
Henry Moore, O.M., C.H. (1898-1986)

Rocking Chair No. 2

Henry Moore, O.M., C.H. (1898-1986)
Rocking Chair No. 2
stamped with the foundry mark 'BRONZE/CIRE/C VALSUANI/PERDUE' (on the underside)
bronze with a dark brown patina
11 in. (28 cm.) high; 11 ¾ in. (30 cm.) long
Conceived in 1950 and cast in an edition of 6.
with Kaplan Gallery, London, where purchased by Mr and Mrs Goldberg on 18 March 1960, and by descent to the present owner.
W. Grohmann, The Art of Henry Moore, London, 1960, p. 7, pl. 113, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Henry Moore: an exhibition of sculpture from 1950-1960, London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1960, no. 1, n.p.
R. Melville, Henry Moore, Sculpture & Drawings 1921-1969, London, 1970, p. 52, no. 399, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Henry Moore 80th Birthday Exhibition, Bradford, Art Galleries & Museum, 1978, no. 63, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Henry Moore 80/80, London, Thomas Gibson Fine Art Ltd, 1978, p. 20, not numbered, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Henry Moore: Sculptures, Drawings, Graphics, 1921-1981, Madrid, Palacio de Velázquez, Palacio de Cristal, Parque El Retiro, 1981, p. 105, no. 199, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Henry Moore, Venezuela, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas, 1983, p. 95, no. E 67, another cast illustrated.
A. Bowness (ed.), Henry Moore, Complete Sculpture: 1949-54, Vol. 2, London, 1986, no. 275, pl. 15, another cast illustrated.
S. Compton, exhibition catalogue, Henry Moore, London, Royal Academy, 1988, pp. 88, 225, no. 109, illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Henry Moore Sculpture from the 40s and 50s, Waddington Galleries, 1995, pp. 10, 11, no. 3, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Sculpture in the home Re-staging a post-war initiative, Leeds, Art Gallery, Henry Moore Institute, 2008, illustrated on the cover.
Exhibition catalogue, Henry Moore, London, Tate Gallery, 2010, p. 127, no. 127, illustrated and published as a postcard for the exhibition.
J. Reid (prod.), Henry Moore, BBC, broadcast 30 April 1951, another cast filmed.
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Henry Moore: an exhibition of sculpture 1950-1960, November 1960 - January 1961, no. 1, another cast exhibited.
Bradford, Art Galleries & Museum, Henry Moore 80th Birthday Exhibition, 1978, no. 63, another cast exhibited.
London, Thomas Gibson Fine Art Ltd, Henry Moore 80/80, 1978, not numbered, another cast exhibited.
Madrid, Palacio de Velázquez, Palacio de Cristal, Parque El Retiro, Henry Moore: Sculptures, Drawings, Graphics, 1921-1981, May - August 1981, no. 199, another cast exhibited.
Venezuela, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas, Henry Moore, March 1983, no. E 67, another cast exhibited.
London, Royal Academy, Henry Moore, September - December 1988, no. 109.
Leeds, Art Gallery, Henry Moore Institute, Sculpture in the home Re-staging a post-war initiative, October 2008 - January 2009.
Henry Moore Institute, Leeds Art Gallery, on loan, 1987-2007.
London, Tate Gallery, Henry Moore, February - August 2010, no. 127.
Beverley, Art Gallery, on loan 2011-2014.
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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Anne Haasjes
Anne Haasjes

Lot Essay

‘From very early on I have had an obsession with the Mother and Child theme. It has been a universal theme from the beginning of time and some of the earliest sculptures we’ve found from the Neolithic Age are of a Mother and Child. I discovered when drawing, I could turn every little scribble, blot or smudge into a mother and Child. […] So that I was conditioned, as it were, to see it in everything. I suppose it could be explained as a “Mother” complex’ (Henry Moore quoted in J. Hedgecoe (ed.), Henry Spencer Moore, London, 1968, p. 61).

Throughout Henry Moore’s prolific career, one theme that became a leitmotif in his oeuvre was that of the union between mother and child and his Rocking Chair series contributes to his extensive portfolio centred on this topic. Moore worked on the Family Group sculptures between 1944 and 1947, creating fourteen terracotta models and three enlarged versions in bronze. In 1950 he modelled four sculptures on a new mother and child subject, the Rocking Chairs.

Though rendering his mother and child subject so frequently, his depictions ranged considerably from the contained seated pairings that bring to mind religious connotations, to the more jovial every-day scenes of toddlers playing with their parent. Furthermore, tracing the theme through the different periods of the artist’s career, one can gain an insight into Moore’s artistic developments by noting the varying levels of abstraction employed in these sculptures. Rocking Chair No. 2, however, is all the more significant because of its relation to Moore’s personal experience as a parent at this time.

"The rocking chair sculptures were done for my daughter Mary," Moore explained, "as toys which actually rock" (quoted in J. Hedgecoe and H. Moore, Henry Spencer Moore, London, 1968, p. 178). Mary was born in 1946, the year after Moore completed the small terracotta family groups. Henry and Irina Moore had been married sixteen years when she arrived; the sculptor was forty-seven, his wife was thirty-nine, and her previous pregnancies had resulted in miscarriages. Mary was their only child. "She was in every sense a precious baby," Roger Berthoud has written. "Henry was from the first an active and doting father, and played a full part in helping to look after his beloved daughter" (The Life of Henry Moore, New York, 1987, p. 197). Mary was four when Moore created the Rocking Chairs for her, older than the child in the sculptures - Moore was happily reminiscing about his little girl when she was learning to walk. Rocking Chair No. 2 is a charming example of the sculptor’s ability to capture a tender familial moment in bronze. This is also arguably one of his most jovial and unconstrained versions of the theme because of its very purpose as toys for his young daughter. Despite their initial purpose, a great deal of planning went into their development, as the numerous sketchbook sheets dedicated to their design illustrate.

Produced in the same year and in a similar size, they were far from unanimous in design. The first three Rocking Chairs are each about 12 inches high, the fourth, subtitled Miniature (based on No. 3), is just under half the size of the others. "These were done to amuse my daughter when she was a child," he commented in conversation with Wolfgang Fischer in 1971. "To have made them even half-life size - that is, three feet high - would have been wrong. They would have lost their toy-like quality" (quoted in A. Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Berkeley, 2002, p. 210). These sculptures are Moore's only kinetic works - it is virtually impossible not to want to handle and rock them. "I discovered while doing them," Moore recalled, "that the speed of the rocking chair depended on the curvature of the base and the disposition of the weights and balances of the sculpture, so each of them rocks at a different speed" (J. Hedgecoe and H. Moore, op. cit., p. 178). In 1952 Moore created a fifth work related to this series, Mother and Child on Ladderback Rocking Chair (LH 312), in which the figures have a knobblier, more surrealist appearance.

Beginning his studies in wax before casting these in bronze, he experimented with this notion of balance, choosing to render the mother with arms raised holding her baby above her in Rocking Chair No. 1, while in the version presented here the child balances on her knees. Furthermore, Moore simplified or developed certain aspects of his sculpture in his different versions: in Rocking Chair No. 1 the mother morphs into the chair itself as the backrest is completely eradicated; whereas in Rocking Chair No. 2, one is given a more realistic interpretation of the scene. The arch of the chair backrest emulates the rocking device and heightens the sense of the mother's embrace. Rocking Chair No. 2 is the most realistic, and the only one which has a complete chair.

Though the elongated limbs and flattened heads are certainly stylised, the version presented here is the most detailed work in this series with Moore including elements such as the eyes and the striations indicating the folds on the woman’s skirt and even the tied-back hair bun. The overall effect that the artist achieves through the simultaneous reduction of unnecessary detail and the selective inclusion of subtle sculptural tonalities is an eloquent illustration of Moore’s mature style.

As Moore developed his artistic ideas, he began to elaborate on the interplay between solid forms and voids within his sculptures but was constrained by the limits of the materials he was using – primarily wood. Casting in lead, and later iron, offered him far greater freedom to explore these possibilities and it was with this transition to alternative methods that his true creativity was unleashed. The strength of the overall piece was not compromised by exposing negative spaces within. As Kathleen Blackshear wrote: ‘The use of positive and negative space is one of the most persistent qualities of Moore’s sculpture’ (K. Blackshear, ‘Henry Moore’, Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago, vol. 41, no. 4, April – May 1947, pp. 44-47). Rocking Chair No. 2 is emblematic of these notions as the spindly interlocking arms of his figures stretch out to reveal a heart-shaped space between them. Meanwhile the back of the rocking chair is given an element of decoration with the inclusion of a thin slit, providing an open 'window' through which to view their curving forms at another angle. Similarly, the base of the chair and the legs of the figures give further views through the work thus emphasising the silhouette of his subject matter and providing a rhythmic flow of changing forms as the two figures rock back and forth in their embrace.

Moore returned to this theme two years later in Mother and Child on Ladderback Rocking Chair and it is interesting to note that the later work contains most similarities with Rocking Chair No. 2 from the previous series, perhaps revealing this as the artist’s preferred version from his 1950 pieces. Working primarily in bronze after the 1950s, Moore varied the finish of his sculptures by using different patinas to alter the surface colours. Mother and Child on Ladderback Rocking Chair employs a green patina for example, while the work presented here contains a dark brown patina, creating a very different effect. ‘Patina can be either a coating of chemical compounds such as oxides or carbonates applied to the surface metal, or the accumulated changes in surface texture and colour that resulted from normal use over time (as of a coin)’ (S. Eustace, Exhibition catalogue, Moore at Hatfield, April - September 2011, p. 14). With the smaller sculptures intended for more intimate settings such as the rocking chairs, weathering played a far lesser role thus, the surface colour seen today is that which was intended by the artist. The evenly applied dark patina in Rocking Chair No. 2, because of its consistency, does not distract from the contours of the object, but rather enhances the sculpture’s silhouette and the way the light shines off it. The simplicity of the patina adds to the refined sophistication present in this small work, and separates it from works such as Mother and Child on Ladderback Rocking Chair.

Rocking Chair No. 2 therefore, is a significant example of Henry Moore’s artistic interests particularly in capturing the tender bond between mother and child that were made all the more pertinent with the arrival of his own daughter. This piece is a wonderful demonstration of his skill as a sculptor in creating something beautiful as well as functional, thus it acts as a superb representation of one of the most celebrated British sculptors of the twentieth century. This sculpture’s importance is reinforced not only because of its place in the trajectory of Moore’s oeuvre, but also its relation to one of the most momentous occasions of his personal life – his earliest experiences as a parent.

Rocking Chair No. 2 featured in the first ever documentary film about a living artist made for British Television, Henry Moore, which was produced by John Reid and broadcast on 30 April 1951 (see www.bbc.co.uk/archive/henrymoore/8801). In 1986, Henry Moore wrote to the present owner requesting that this work be lent to Henry Moore Centre for the Study of Sculpture, Leeds City Art Galleries, where it was exhibited from 1987 until 2007.

Philip and Aimée Goldberg’s collection was formed from around 1955 until Philip’s death in 1969. A keen amateur artist, Mrs Goldberg was a frequent visitor to museums and galleries, and had an extremely eclectic eye, resulting in an exceptional collection of Impressionist and modern paintings and sculpture, as well as antique furniture. On her death in 1986, two works were acquired by the nation in lieu of tax, Giacometti’s portrait of the writer Jean Genet, 1954 (Tate) and a watercolour by Cézanne, The Apotheosis of Delacroix, c. 1878-80 (British Museum). Christie’s held a number of sales in November and December 1986 of the contents of their home at 86 Eaton Square, which included key works by the most important artists of the 19th and 20th Centuries such as Degas, van Gogh, Kandinsky, Matisse, Chagall, Bonnard and De Staël. The Goldberg Collection of Pictures realised £4,157,020 and was the highlight of the auction season.

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