Henry Moore, O.M., C.H. (1898-1986)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE CANADIAN COLLECTION
Henry Moore, O.M., C.H. (1898-1986)

Mother and Child

Henry Moore, O.M., C.H. (1898-1986)
Mother and Child
bronze with a brown patina
20½ in. (51.5 cm.) high, excluding wooden base
Conceived in 1953 and cast in an edition of 7, plus one artist's proof.
with M. Knoedler & Co., London, where purchased by the present owner, January 1962.
Exhibition catalogue, London, Leicester Galleries, New Bronzes by Henry Moore, London, 1954, pp. 7, 11, no. 5, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Henry Moore, New York, Curt Valentin Gallery, 1954, n.p., no. 25, another cast illustrated.
E. Neumann, The Archetypal World of Henry Moore, London, 1959, p. 117, pl. 91, another cast illustrated.
W. Grohmann, The Art of Henry Moore, London, 1960, p. 143, another cast.
H. Read, Henry Moore: A Study of his Life and Work, London, 1965, p. 176, pl. 156, another cast illustrated.
R. Melville, Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings 1921-69, London, 1970, pp. 357, 469, pl. 469, another cast illustrated.
H. Moore, ‘Henry Moore Talks About his Life as a Sculptor’, Listener, 24 January 1974, p. 105, another cast.
Exhibition catalogue, The Henry Moore Gift, London, Tate Gallery, 1978, p. 31, exhibition not numbered, another cast illustrated.
D. Mitchinson (ed.), Henry Moore Sculpture: with comments by the artist, London, 1981, p. 115, no. 227, another cast illustrated.
G. Gelburd (ed.), exhibition catalogue, Mother and Child: the Art of Henry Moore, New York, Hofstra Museum, Hofstra University Hempstead, 1987, p. 60, no. 38, another cast illustrated.
R. Berthoud, The Life of Henry Moore, London, 1987, n.p., no. 108, another cast illustrated.
A. Bowness (ed.), Henry Moore Complete Sculpture: 1949-54, Vol. 2, London, 1986, p. 39, no. 315, pl. 83, another cast illustrated.
J. Stallabrass, ‘Henry Moore: Mother and Child’, in exhibition catalogue, Henry Moore: Mutter und Kind / Mother and Child, Cologne, Käthe Kollwitz Museum, 1992, another cast.
A. Wagner, ‘Henry Moore’s Mother’, Representations, No. 65, Winter 1999, pp. 93-120, another cast.
P. McCaughey, exhibition catalogue, Henry Moore and the Heroic: A Centenary Tribute, New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, 1999, pp. 42-43, no. 12, another cast illustrated.
D. Cohen, ‘Maquette for Mother and Child 1952’, in David Mitchinson (ed.), Celebrating Moore: Works from the Collection of the Henry Moore Foundation, London, 2006, pp. 233-235, another cast.
G. Muir (ed.), exhibition catalogue, Henry Moore: Ideas for Sculpture, Hauser & Wirth, London, 2010, pp. 150-151, another cast illustrated.
L. Stonebridge, ‘A Love of Beginnings: Henry Moore and Psychoanalysis’ in Chris Stephens (ed.), exhibition catalogue, Henry Moore, London, Tate Gallery, 2010, pp. 40-49, another cast illustrated.
Henry Moore, February - March 1954, no. 5, another cast exhibited.
New York, Curt Valentin Gallery, Henry Moore, November - December 1954, no. 25, another cast exhibited.
London, Arts Council, Arts Council Gallery, Henry Moore: an exhibition of sculpture and drawings, February - March 1962, no. 21, another cast exhibited: this exhibition travelled to York, City Art Gallery, March - April 1962; and Nottingham, The Castle, April - May 1962.
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Henry Moore to Gilbert & George: Modern British Art from the Tate Gallery, September - November 1973, no. 41, another cast exhibited.
London, Tate Gallery, The Henry Moore Gift, June - August 1978, exhibition not numbered, another cast exhibited.
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Henry Moore 1898-1986, March - August 1998, no. 27, another cast exhibited.
New York, Hofstra Museum, Hofstra University Hempstead, Mother and Child: the Art of Henry Moore, September - November 1987, no. 38, another cast exhibited: this exhibition travelled to University Park, Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania State University, December 1987 - January 1988; Philadelphia, Arther Ross Gallery, University of Pennsylvania, December 1987 - January 1988; and Baltimore, The Baltimore Art Museum, February - April 1988.
New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, Henry Moore and the Heroic: A Centenary Tribute, January - March 1999, no. 12, another cast exhibited.
Mexico City, Museo Dolores Olmedo, Henry Moore y México, June - October 2005, no. 40, anther cast exhibited.
London, Tate Gallery, Henry Moore, February - August 2010, exhibition not numbered, another cast exhibited.
Norwich, City Castle Museum and Art Gallery, Relative Values: The Family in British Art, October 2011 - January 2012, another cast exhibited, this exhibition travelled to: Sheffield, Millennium Gallery, February - April 2012; and Newcastle upon Tyne, Laing Art Gallery, May - September 2012.
Special notice

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Sale room notice
Please note the additional provenance for this work:

with Galerie Beyeler, Basel

Lot Essay

Conceived in 1953, Mother and Child is as a unique example within Henry Moore’s intensive exploration of the connection between a parent and young child, in which the artist turns away from the loving, nurturing aspects of their relationship to focus on the unseen, almost brutal side of their bond. Throughout the 1940s Moore had become well-known for his depictions of nurturing family units in a series of public commissions, most notably through his Madonna and Child for St Matthew’s Church in Northampton, and his Family Group, designed for a progressive school in Stevenage. However, at the start of the 1950s, there occurred a distinctive shift in his style, as works of a darker mood began to dominate his output. Marked by a pervading sense of aggression and desperation, this work shows a ‘child’ as it lunges hungrily at its mother’s breast, forcing her to grasp it by the neck and prevent it from attacking her body. Both figures are transformed into seemingly monstrous creatures – the child resembling a snapping bird, the mother a spiked, many toothed beast – as they become locked in a tense struggle for power. Imbued with a distinctly threatening atmosphere, these alien, animalistic figures offer a startling contrast to the tender, protective forms which usually dominate Moore’s oeuvre and instead capture a sense of the dangerous imbalance of dependency that can underpin the mother and child relationship.

Amongst Moore’s most fundamental obsessions, the subject of the mother and child was a leitmotif that he found could withstand his dynamic manipulations of form and which offered a seemingly endless number of variations for him to explore. Of particular fascination to the artist was the physical and emotional connection that developed between the suckling child and the nursing mother which, like the motif of the reclining figure, he saw as a pure emblem of humanity. Often executed in soft, rounded forms, this tender relationship between the two was often heightened by the added impression that the larger figure was protecting and nurturing the smaller figure, the mother cradling the child in her arms as she produces and shares her milk. The present work takes a decisive shift away from this norm, focusing on the toll this experience can take on the mother both physically and psychologically. Discussing this change in approach, Moore explained: ‘I’ve done many mother and child sculptures, and most of them have had this idea of the larger form in a protective relationship with the smaller form – the sense of gentleness and of tenderness. But this isn’t always so with youth and age. It isn’t always so with very young children or animals. They’re ravenous. It’s as though they want to devour their parent: their need for food, for growing, is such that they have no tender feelings towards the parent. Sometimes the parent has almost to protect itself – and this is the opposite side to what I usually did in my mother and child ideas. I wanted this to seem as though the child was trying to devour its parent – as though the parent, the mother, had to hold the child at arm’s length’ (Moore, in The Listener, 24 January 1974, p. 105, quoted in A. Wilkinson, (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Berkeley, 2002, p. 278).

While the two figures are startlingly different in appearance, they are presented as a single entity, conjoined at the hip so that the child’s form appears as if it is growing out of the mother’s side. Fusing their bodies in this way, the mother and child appear at once as independent and interdependent figures. The tension between the two is accentuated by Moore’s treatment of the negative space in the sculpture, as the gap between their conjoined forms remains taut with the energy of the mother as she desperately holds the snapping jaws of her child at arm’s length. The slight circular depression on the right side of her torso is suggestive of an inverted or depleted breast, implying that the child has already taken its fill of the mother’s milk and is hungrily seeking more. As if in response to the young child’s aggression the mother twists her body away from it, swinging her legs to the front, to push herself further out of its reach. However, this only brings the child closer to her full, remaining breast, which it naturally seeks to latch on to. There is a sense of desperation in the lunge the child makes towards the mother, its seemingly unstoppable hunger driving it to attack her plump breast. When a member of Moore’s studio first saw the maquette for Mother and Child, he asked the artist why the child was attempting to bite the mother in this way, to which Moore responded ‘No, not bite her, gnaw her’ (Moore, quoted in D. Cohen, ‘Maquette for Mother and Child,’ in D. Mitchinson (ed.), Celebrating Moore: Works from the Collection of the Henry Moore Foundation, Berkeley, 1998, p. 233). This short statement earned the sculpture the nickname of ‘Nora’ among the artist and his assistants, a moniker which would endure over the years.

In many ways, the forms and attitude of Mother and Child hark back to Moore’s earlier engagements with Surrealism, which had shaped his style so significantly in the years immediately preceding the Second World War. Moore had first encountered André Breton, Paul Éluard, and other members of the Surrealist group on one of his numerous visits to Paris through the 1920s and 1930s, and was immediately struck by the freedom of expression and form that marked their art. As he explained in 1937, ‘I find myself lined up with the surrealists because Surrealism means freedom for the creative side of man, for surprise and discovery and life, for an opening out and widening of man’s consciousness, for changing life and against conserving worn out traditions, for variety not a uniformity, for opening not closing…’ (Moore, unpublished notes from ‘The Sculptor Speaks’ 1937, quoted in A. Wilkinson, op. cit., p. 123). Moore exhibited repeatedly in Surrealist circles in London, Paris and New York during the thirties, while photographs of his work were often reproduced in publications with strong ties to the movement, including Cahiers dArt and Minotaure. Perhaps most significantly, Moore was involved in the organisation and staging of the infamous International Surrealist Exhibition, which opened in London in the summer of 1936. This event, which included over 490 works from more than sixty artists representing fourteen different countries, included lectures from Breton, Éluard and Salvador Dalí, and brought the ground-breaking language of Surrealism to the British public, with some twenty-thousand visitors recorded during its short run.

This interaction with the Surrealists had a profound impact on Moore’s approach to the figure, exposing him to the energizing influences of Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti and Constantin Brancusi, and allowing him to explore new constructive and fragmentary approaches to the body. Moore re-engaged with these sources in the opening years of the 1950s, revisiting the themes and ideas he had been working on after more than a decade. While the arching neck and geometric body of the child in Mother and Child shows distinctive affinities to Brancusi’s The Chimaera, created in 1918 and exhibited at the 1936 show in London, the mother’s monstrous face and bowed neck both appear to echo Picasso’s biomorphic reinventions of the human figure in the late 1920s and early 1930s. According to Herbert Read, Moore purchased a special issue of the influential Surrealist-oriented periodical Documents in 1930, which focused on the most recent works of the great Spanish artist. Through exposure to reproductions in publications such as Documents and Cahiers dArt, Moore came to know paintings like Seated Bather (1930) and Figure (1930), and the way in which such details as the sharp pointed teeth protruding threateningly in a vertical line along the cheeks bones and mandibles of both figures could elicit an alien, otherworldly quality in his otherwise sensual female forms. Other commentators have highlighted connections to more historical sources, with Alan Wilkinson citing an illustration of a Chimù Peruvian pot from Ernst Fuhrmann’s tome Peru II (1922), a copy of which Moore owned, as a potential inspiration. However, in each of these cases Moore approached his sources selectively, taking from them what he found most intriguing and transforming them into his own unique idiom.

During the opening years of the 1950s the influence of the Surrealists allowed Moore to inject a new sense of anxiety into his sculptures, opening his work to greater levels of psychological drama and depth. While traces of this can be seen in works such as Helmet Heads (see lots 2 and 3), Reclining Figure: Festival created for the Festival of Britain, and his 1950 work Standing Figure, which stood outside the British Pavilion of the Venice Biennale in 1952, Mother and Child may be viewed as the most extreme expression of this dark, threatening mood. In many ways a culmination of the experiments he had engaged with in these previous sculptures, this work pushes the boundaries of the mother and child subject to its most severe, ferocious limits, challenging our conception of this fundamental, universal relationship and causing us to question traditional representations of the subject. In showing the flip-side of their bond, Moore transforms the mother and child relationship from one of nurture and nourishment to one of aggression, brutality and incredible psychological complexity.

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