Henry Moore (1898-1986)
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Henry Moore (1898-1986)

Mother and Child on Ladderback Chair

Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Mother and Child on Ladderback Chair
bronze with golden brown patina
Height: 15 1/2 in. (39.4 cm.)
Conceived in 1952 and cast in an edition of seven
(Possibly) Curt Valentin Gallery, New York.
Acquired by the late owners by 1957.
H. Read, Henry Moore, vol. II, Sculpture and Drawings 1949-1954, London, 1965, no. 313, pp. xxvi (illustrated pl. 43).
R. Melville, Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings, 1921-1969, London, 1970, no. 431, p. 356 (another cast illustrated).
D. Mitchinson, ed., Henry Moore: Sculpture, London, 1981, no. 223, pp. 114 & 311 (detail of another cast illustrated).
W.S. Lieberman, exh. cat., Henry Moore: 60 Years of His Art, New York, 1983, pp. 81 & 123 (another cast illustrated p. 81).
S. Compton, exh. cat., Henry Moore, London, 1988, p. 231, no. 123 (another cast illustrated).
C. Stephens, ed., exh. cat., Henry Moore, London, 2010, no. 125, p. 186 (another cast illustrated).
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Lot Essay

Created in 1952 and cast in an edition of seven, Henry Moore’s Mother and Child on Ladderback Chair is an enchanting exploration of the tender relationship between parent and child. Capturing the sense of wonder and intense love the two figures share in this moment, the sculpture conveys an impression of the joy that can be found in even the simplest of everyday activities, and was inspired by the artist’s own experiences as a parent following the birth of his beloved daughter Mary in 1946. While the mother and child theme had long fascinated the artist, leading him to consider it one of his fundamental obsessions, the subject took on a new level of importance in his sculptures as he became a father.

When Mary was just four years old the artist designed three small rocking chair sculptures for her amusement, which moved gently backwards and forwards on their curved bases when touched. Each focusing on a seated mother and child, these whimsical, kinetic works moved at different speeds to one another, the shape of their bases and the dispersion of weight in their forms affecting their range of motion. Two years later, in 1952, the artist revisited the subject, adding a more elaborate chair on which his figures could sit, introducing the ‘ladderback’ detailing to its design. A second, enlarged version of this composition was subsequently created, although Moore felt that this new size and weight restricted the potential movement of the sculpture and removed the rocking function, planting the legs of the chair onto a heavy, rectangular base instead, as in the present work.

In keeping with Moore’s style during the opening years of the 1950s, there is a touch of surrealism in his treatment of form, as both figures’ limbs and torsos appear thinned and elongated to new extremes, their heads transformed into abstract, amorphous shapes. The addition of a triangular bib-like protrusion at the woman’s shoulders, meanwhile, creates a new connection between the two bodies, and emphasises the mother’s gaze as she focuses all her attention on her child. In this way, the present work eschews the playful energy of the previous rocking chair sculptures, and instead focuses on the powerful emotional connection that exists between the two figures, imbuing the motif with a new monumentality and sense of permanence.

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