Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION
Henry Moore (1898-1986)

Working Model for Reclining Figure: Bone Skirt

Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Working Model for Reclining Figure: Bone Skirt
signed and numbered ‘Moore 1/9’ (on the top of the base)
bronze with dark brown patina with green undertones
Length: 27 1/8 in. (68.9 cm.)
Conceived in 1977-1979 and cast in an edition of nine
Lauren Bacall, New York, by whom acquired directly from the artist in October 1979, and thence by descent; sale, Bonhams, New York, 4 November 2014, lot 58.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
A. Bowness, ed., Henry Moore, Sculpture and drawings, vol. V, Sculpture 1974-80, London, 1983, no. 723, p. 35 (another cast illustrated p. 34; illustrated again pls. 124 & 125).
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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Keith Gill
Keith Gill

Lot Essay

‘The pleasure, the joy, the emotional impact of your work – Since that lucky day in 1959 when I became aware of the force of your sculpture, that there is a man on this confused earth with such vitality, power, purity of spirit, interest, awareness is inspiring and comforting beyond description’
(L. Bacall, letter to Henry Moore, 22 June 1976).

‘The first time Moore published his thoughts about art, he wrote that the sculpture which moved him most gave out “something of the energy and power of great mountains” ... Moore’s reclining figures are not supine; they prop themselves up, are potentially active. Hence the affinity with river-gods; the idea is not simply that of a body subjected to the flow of nature’s forces but of one in which those forces are harnessed’
(D. Sylvester, Henry Moore, New York and London, 1968, p. 5).

Formerly in the collection of Lauren Bacall, who acquired the work directly from the artist’s studio in 1979, Working Model for Reclining Figure: Bone Skirt is a superb example of Henry Moore’s mature style. The reclining figure was, with the possible exception of the ‘mother and child’ theme, the most important motif in his practice. ‘The vital thing for an artist’, Moore once explained, ‘is to have a subject that allows [him] to try out all kinds of formal ideas – things that he doesn’t yet know about for certain but wants to experiment with, as Cézanne did in his “Bathers” series. In my case the reclining figure provides chances of that sort. The subject-matter is given. It’s settled for you, and you know it and like it so that within it, within the subject that you’ve done a dozen times before, you are free to invent a completely new idea’ (Moore, quoted in J. Russell, Henry Moore, London, 1968, p. 28). By the 1970s, Moore had reached a peak of virtuosity in his reclining sculptures, conjuring undulating, dynamic figures with surprising articulations of positive and negative space. Working Model for Reclining Figure: Bone Skirt displays the smooth, burnished surface and effortless swoop of line that are typical of this period. With a lifelong affinity for the landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales, Moore was deeply in tune with the inherent strength, rhythm and beauty of natural form, from glacier-carved valleys to polished pebbles and wind-bent trees. The arched, rippling skirt of the present work attests to his special interest in the majestic structures of bone, which here seem to stretch in taut ribs across the woman’s knees before plunging to a scapula-like arabesque at her waist. Her upper body, propped upright on her elbows, is at once monumental and gentler in form, as if weathered smooth by the elements over aeons.

Model for Reclining Figure: Bone Skirt shows Moore investigating a timeless, archetypal force that lay at the heart of his conception of nature, and that was crucial in forging his unique approach to sculpture. In the recumbent female form, Moore was able to develop a radically new formal language that blurred the lines between figure and landscape, and between figuration and abstraction. Playing solid form off against voids, spaces and absences, he made sculptures to be viewed ‘in the round’, offering a rich experience that seemed to manifest both interior and exterior at once. As Erich Neumann wrote of Moore in this respect, ‘Although he is, in the true sense, the “seer” of an inner archetypal figure that we could call, for short, the “Primordial Feminine” or the “Great Mother”, it is clear, as perhaps nowhere in the history of art, that for Moore this archetypal image or “idea” is neither inside nor outside, but has its true seat on a plane beyond both’ (E. Neumann, The Archetypal World of Henry Moore, London 1959, p. 12). By the time he made Model for Reclining Figure: Bone Skirt, these themes of timelessness and enduring, eternal grandeur in Moore’s work had been centred around the reclining figure for over half a century. His interest in the pose had been initially sparked by Pre-Columbian sculpture, which he saw images of as a student at the Royal College of Art in the early 1920s. He especially admired a Toltec-Maya Chacmool figure from Chichen Itza, which he described in a note of 1925-1926 as ‘about as good a piece of sculpture as I know’; turned up to face the sky, this form offered fresh possibilities compared to the sideways recumbence of Greek or Renaissance marbles, and, as Moore expanded, ‘Mexican stone sculptures have largeness of scale & a grim, sublime austerity, a real stoniness. They were true sculptors in sympathy with their material & their sculpture has some of the character of mountains, of boulders, rocks and sea worn pebbles’ (unpublished note circa 1925-1926, HMF Archive, quoted in A. Wilkinson, ed., Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershot, 2002, p. 97). Moore’s own sympathy with his material and his sensitivity to such natural forms are masterfully brought together in Model for Reclining Figure: Bone Skirt. Articulated in a groundbreakingly modern sculptural idiom, it resonates with a living power that seems as ancient, endless and full of mystery as the tides, winds and movements of the earth that shape our world.

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