Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Property from the Collection of Norman and Monica Ziegelman
Henry Moore (1898-1986)

Working Model for Reclining Woman: Elbow

Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Working Model for Reclining Woman: Elbow
signed and numbered 'Moore 8/9' (on the top of the base); inscribed with foundry mark ‘Morris Singer Founders London’ (on the back of the base)
bronze with golden brown patina
Length: 36 7/8 in. (93.7 cm.)
Conceived and cast in 1981
Acquired from the artist by the present owner, March 1982.
R. Berthoud, The Life of Henry Moore, New York, 1987, no. 174 (monumental version illustrated).
A. Bowness, ed., Henry Moore: Complete Sculpture, 1980-1986, London, 1988, vol. 6, p. 38, no. 809 (other casts illustrated, p. 39 and pls. 57-58).
D. Mitchinson, ed., Celebrating Moore, Berkeley, 1998, p. 342, no. 271 (monumental version illustrated in color, p. 41, fig. 11 and p. 342).

Brought to you by

Max Carter
Max Carter

Lot Essay

Henry Moore conceived this Working Model in preparation for Reclining Woman: Elbow, which together with Reclining Figure, 1982, and Draped Reclining Mother and Baby, 1983, are his final monumental outdoor sculptures devoted to the figure, realized when the artist was in his eighties. Moore selected Reclining Woman: Elbow to rest on the exterior entrance terrace of the Moore Sculpture Gallery extension to Leeds City Art Gallery. Much care had been taken, with Moore’s participation, to site the figure to best advantage, and all was ready in November 1982 when Queen Elizabeth II inaugurated the new gallery and study center. Back in 1919, following his service in the First World War, Moore received a grant to attend the Leeds College of Art, where he met Barbara Hepworth. Following their initial studies, both aspiring young sculptors were awarded scholarships in 1921 to the Royal College of Art, London.
Reclining Woman: Elbow was a most appropriate sculpture for this crowning event in the artist’s career; this recumbent figure represents the culminating, consummate mastery that Moore brought to the subject that had engrossed him for nearly six decades (cast 1/9 sold, Christie’s, New York, 6 November 2008, lot 10). “From the very beginning the reclining figure has been my main theme,” Moore declared. “The first one I made was around 1924, and probably more than half of my sculptures since have been reclining figures” (quoted in J. Hedgecoe, Henry Moore, New York, 1968, p. 151). The so-called Leeds Reclining Figure, 1929, is regarded as one of Moore’s most significant early sculptures (Lund Humphries, no. 59).
This late reclining woman, full bodied and classical in aspect, followed a series of smaller, lean, and attenuated figures that Moore created during the late 1970s. Reclining Woman No. 1 and No. 2, 1980 (Lund Humphries, nos. 808 and 811), anticipate the pose in the present sculpture—the recumbent figure rests on her left side, supporting the weight of her upper body on the left elbow. Her right arm is extended along the raised right side of her body. She is nude in No. 1, draped in No. 2; for this Working Model and the final version (No. 810; measuring nearly 7½ feet [221 cm.] from end to end), Moore again disrobed her, clearly seeking to emphasize the powerful, massive form of her right leg.
The basic formal opposition in Reclining Woman: Elbow, such as Moore sought to embed in any major sculpture, arises here between the sculptor’s relatively descriptive treatment of the upper body versus the more abstract aspect of the legs. The point-counterpoint of angled limbs brackets the sculpture at both ends. "All art is an abstraction to some degree,” Moore observed. “In sculpture the material alone forces one away from pure representation and towards abstraction. Abstract qualities of design are essential to the value of the work, but to me of equal importance is the psychological, human element. If both abstract and human elements are welded together in a work, it must have a fuller, deeper meaning" (A. Wilkinson, ed., Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Berkeley, 2002, p. 192).
Moore’s synthesis of naturalistic and abstract elements in Reclining Woman: Elbow results in a conception of woman as landscape, in which the figure appears to embody multiple natural motifs. "The whole of nature—bones, pebbles, shells, clouds, tree trunks, flowers—all is grist to the mill of a sculpture,” Moore stated. “People have thought—the later Greeks, in the Hellenistic period—that the human figure was the only subject, that it ended there; a question of copying. But I believe it's a question of metamorphosis. We must relate the human figure to animals, to clouds, to the landscape—bring them all together. There's no difference between them all. By using them like metaphors in poetry, you give new meaning to things" (ibid., pp. 221-222).
While classically monumental in its effect, but given to more intimate expression in the mid-size format of a Working Model, the sensual appeal of the present Reclining Woman: Elbow is warmly inviting. Laying claim to her ancient role as a beneficent and life-affirming fertility goddess, she embodies the very earth itself. Her forms—the massive pelvis, shoulders, breasts, and limbs—relate to the landscape in which Moore spent a lifetime roaming over hill and dale, siting some of his large sculptures in the very environment that inspired them. As a traveler enjoys the changing prospect while moving in and around a landscape, Moore invited the viewer to enjoy his figures from various angles; Reclining Woman: Elbow is especially rewarding in this regard.
The hole is a signature element that Moore employed in many sculptures. In the abstract sense, the hole formally connotes negative space, or as Moore put it, “a shape which could have turned into a solid form if I had thought of it the other way around.” There are three such openings in the form of this reclining woman—one contained within the shape of her arm, bent at the elbow, and another the space between the lower legs at the foot of the sculpture. And there is, of course, the large hole that separates her thighs, to which the viewer’s eye is instantly drawn, as was surely Moore’s intention. Taking the artist's permission to interpret these forms as one is so inclined, the hole may allude to female sexuality, the opening of the birth-canal, or the womb. As Moore wrote in 1937, “There’s no doubt a deep psychological explanation for the fascination of the hole” (ibid., p. 207).
The replete, rounded classical forms in Reclining Woman: Elbow are expansive, as befit the late date in which Moore conceived this sculpture. "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 give off strength from inside itself, rather than having something which is just shaped from outside and is stopped. It's as though you have something trying to make itself come to a shape from inside itself” (ibid., pp. 198-199).
“Our own bodies, our own make up, have the greatest influence on art,” Moore believed. “For me everything in the world of form is understood through our own bodies. From our mother’s breast, from our bones, from bumping into things, we learn what is rough and what is smooth. To observe, to understand, to experience the vast variety of space, shape and form in the world, twenty lifetimes would not be enough. There is no end to it" (ibid., pp. 220 and 221).
Norman and Monica Ziegelman had admired Henry Moore for more than thirty years before meeting him in his studio in Hertfordshire in 1982. Previously, in his architectural practice, Norman had worked on numerous building projects that incorporated Moore’s monumental outdoor sculpture. In the event, Norman and Monica fell in love with and acquired the present work, noting its exceptionally rich golden brown patina, writing to Moore that April that they were “excited and ecstatic about [it]… every day.” On the occasion of Moore’s death in August 1986, they commiserated with his widow, Irena, mourning the loss of an artist who had “given us joy and excitement for over 35 years.”

More from Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale Including Property from The Collection of Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass

View All
View All